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From Old English magan, from Proto-Germanic *maganą, from Proto-Indo-European *magʰ, *megʰ. Cognate with Dutch mogen, Low German mögen, German mögen, Swedish må, Icelandic mega, megum. See also might.
- (obsolete, intransitive) To be strong; to have power (over). [8th-17th c.]
- (obsolete, auxiliary) To be able; can. [8th-17th c.]
- (intransitive, poetic) To be able to go. [from 9th c.]
- (modal auxiliary verb, defective) To have permission to, be allowed. Used in granting permission and in questions to make polite requests. [from 9th c.]
- you may smoke outside; may I sit there?
- (modal auxiliary verb, defective) Expressing a present possibility; possibly. [from 13th c.]
- he may be lying; Schrödinger's cat may or may not be in the box
2011 October 1, Phil Dawkes, “Sunderland 2-2 West Brom”, BBC Sport:
- The result may not quite give the Wearsiders a sweet ending to what has been a sour week, following allegations of sexual assault and drug possession against defender Titus Bramble, but it does at least demonstrate that their spirit remains strong in the face of adversity.
2013 July 6, “The rise of smart beta”, The Economist, volume 408, number 8843, page 68:
- Investors face a quandary. Cash offers a return of virtually zero in many developed countries; government-bond yields may have risen in recent weeks but they are still unattractive. Equities have suffered two big bear markets since 2000 and are wobbling again. It is hardly surprising that pension funds, insurers and endowments are searching for new sources of return.
- (subjunctive present, defective) Expressing a wish (with present subjunctive effect). [from 16th c.]
- may you win; may the weather be sunny
- Used in modesty, courtesy, or concession, or to soften a question or remark.
- How old may Phillis be, you ask.
- May is now a defective verb. It has no infinitive, no past participle, and no future tense. Forms of to be allowed to are used to replace these missing tenses.
- The simple past (both indicative and subjunctive) of may is might
- The present tense is negated as may not, which can be contracted to mayn't, although this is old-fashioned; the simple past is negated as might not, which can be contracted to mightn't.
- May has archaic second-person singular present indicative forms mayest and mayst.
- Usage of this word in the sense of possibly is considered incorrect by some speakers and writers, as it blurs the meaning of the word in the sense have permission to. These speakers and writers prefer to use the word might instead.
- Wishes are often cast in the imperative rather than the subjunctive mood, not using the word may, as in Have a great day! rather than May you have a great day.
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.
may (plural mays)
- To gather may.
may (using Raguileo Alphabet)
- Wixaleyiñ: Mapucezugun-wigkazugun pici hemvlcijka (Wixaleyiñ: Small Mapudungun-Spanish dictionary), Beretta, Marta; Cañumil, Dario; Cañumil, Tulio, 2008.
- May (Month of the Year)
may (plural maylar)
- May (month)