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may1

[mey] /meɪ/
auxiliary verb, present singular 1st person may, 2nd may or (Archaic) mayest or mayst, 3rd may; present plural may; past might.
1.
(used to express possibility):
It may rain.
2.
(used to express opportunity or permission):
You may enter.
3.
(used to express contingency, especially in clauses indicating condition, concession, purpose, result, etc.):
I may be wrong but I think you would be wise to go. Times may change but human nature stays the same.
4.
(used to express wish or prayer):
May you live to an old age.
5.
Archaic. (used to express ability or power.)
Compare might1 .
Origin
900
before 900; Middle English mai 1st and 3rd person singular present indicative of mouen, Old English mæg (infinitive magan); cognate with German mögen
Can be confused
may, might, must (see synonym study at must)
Usage note
See can1.

may2

[mey] /meɪ/
noun, Archaic.
1.
a maiden.
Origin
before 900; Middle English mai; Old English mæg

May

[mey] /meɪ/
noun
1.
the fifth month of the year, containing 31 days.
2.
the early part of one's life, especially the prime:
a young woman in her May.
3.
the festivities of May Day.
4.
(lowercase) British. the hawthorn.
5.
a female given name.
6.
Cape, a cape at the SE tip of New Jersey, on Delaware Bay.
verb (used without object)
7.
(lowercase) to gather flowers in the spring:
when we were maying.
Origin
before 1050; Middle English, Old English Maius < Latin, short for Maius mēnsis Maia's month
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for may
  • They may yet come back into the national spotlight if they maintain momentum.
  • Watermelon, the quintessential summer fruit, may soon be helping to fuel your car as well as your picnic guests.
  • City dwellers may handle pressure differently from those who live in less populated areas.
  • Observatories or individual sky watchers may be asked to take a look.
  • For a quick, inexpensive support for climbing plants, build a simple tipi of natural materials you may already have.
  • Deep inside the super-dense hearts of exploding stars, gravity may squash neutron particles from spheres into cubes.
  • It could charge both punters full price, in which case the student may stay at home.
  • One day in the future, infection may be fought by simply switching bacterial invaders off.
  • Natural enemies reduce the loopers population but may not provide adequate control at certain times of the year.
  • It may be impossible to define the agent's job in a way that can be monitored effectively.
British Dictionary definitions for may

may1

/meɪ/
verb (past) might takes an infinitive without to or an implied infinitive used as an auxiliary
1.
to indicate that permission is requested by or granted to someone: he may go to the park tomorrow if he behaves himself
2.
(often foll by well) to indicate possibility: the rope may break, he may well be a spy
3.
to indicate ability or capacity, esp in questions: may I help you?
4.
to express a strong wish: long may she reign
5.
to indicate result or purpose: used only in clauses introduced by that or so that: he writes so that the average reader may understand
6.
another word for might1
7.
to express courtesy in a question: whose child may this little girl be?
8.
be that as it may, in spite of that: a sentence connector conceding the possible truth of a previous statement and introducing an adversative clause: be that as it may, I still think he should come
9.
come what may, whatever happens
10.
(foll by a clause introduced by but) that's as may be, that may be so
Usage note
It was formerly considered correct to use may rather than can when referring to permission as in: you may use the laboratory for your experiments, but this use of may is now almost entirely restricted to polite questions such as: may I open the window? The use of may with if in constructions such as: your analysis may have been more more credible if … is generally regarded as incorrect, might being preferred: your analysis might have been more credible if
Word Origin
Old English mæg, from magan: compare Old High German mag, Old Norse

may2

/meɪ/
noun
1.
an archaic word for maiden
Word Origin
Old English mæg; related to Old High German māg kinsman, Old Norse māgr a relative by marriage

may3

/meɪ/
noun
1.
Also may tree a Brit name for hawthorn
2.
short for may blossom
Word Origin
C16: from the month of May, when it flowers

May1

/meɪ/
noun
1.
the fifth month of the year, consisting of 31 days
Word Origin
from Old French, from Latin Maius, probably from Maia, Roman goddess, identified with the Greek goddess Maia

May2

/meɪ/
noun
1.
Robert McCredie, Baron. born 1936, Australian biologist and ecologist

may blossom

noun
1.
the blossom of the may tree or hawthorn
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for may
v.

Old English mæg "am able" (infinitive magan, past tense meahte, mihte), from Proto-Germanic root *mag-, infinitive *maganan (Old Frisian mei/muga/machte "have power, may;" Old Saxon mag/mugan/mahte; Middle Dutch mach/moghen/mohte; Dutch mag/mogen/mocht; Old High German mag/magan/mahta; German mag/mögen/mochte; Old Norse ma/mega/matte; Gothic mag/magan/mahte "to be able"), from PIE *magh- (1) "to be able, have power" (cf. Greek mekhos, makhos "means, instrument," Old Church Slavonic mogo "to be able," mosti "power, force," Sanskrit mahan "great"). Also used in Old English as a "auxiliary of prediction."

"to take part in May Day festivities," late 15c., from May. Related: Mayed; maying.

May

fifth month, early 12c., from Old French mai and directly from Latin Majus, Maius mensis "month of May," possibly from Maja, Maia, a Roman earth goddess (wife of Vulcan) whose name is of unknown origin; possibly from PIE *mag-ya "she who is great," fem. suffixed form of root *meg- "great" (cognate with Latin magnus). Replaced Old English þrimilce, month in which cows can be milked three times a day. May marriages have been considered unlucky at least since Ovid's day. May-apple attested from 1733, American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with may
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Article for may

May

fifth month of the Gregorian calendar. It was named after Maia, a Roman fertility goddess.

Learn more about May with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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