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From Late Middle English canonizen (to declare as a saint; to appoint to an ecclesiastical office),[1] from Old French canonisier (modern French canoniser (to canonize)), or from its etymon Medieval Latin, Late Latin canōnizāre, the present active infinitive of Latin canōnizō (to recognize as a saint, canonize; to declare as authoritative or official),[2] from Latin canōn (measuring line; (figurative) precept, rule, canon; authorized catalogue) + -izō (suffix forming verbs). Canōn is derived from Ancient Greek κᾰνών (kanṓn, measuring rod; general principle, norm, rule; model, paradigm); the further etymology is uncertain, but it may be related to κᾰ́ννᾱ (kánnā, giant reed (Arundo donax); reed mat), ultimately from Sumerian 𒄀𒈾 ( The English word is analysable as canon (general principle, rule; authoritative group of works; catalogue of saints canonized in the Roman Catholic Church) +‎ -ize.



canonize (third-person singular simple present canonizes, present participle canonizing, simple past and past participle canonized) (transitive, American spelling, Oxford British English)

  1. (chiefly Roman Catholicism) To declare (a deceased person) as a saint, and enter them into the canon of saints.
    Synonym: saint
    Antonym: uncanonize
    Thomas Becket was canonized in 1173.
    • 1572, [Christopher Carlile], “The Second Discovrs, wherein is Proued, that neyther Peter, nor the Pope, is the Head of Christes Church”, in A Discourse. Wherein is Plainly Proued by the Order of Time and Place, that Peter was Neuer at Rome. [], London: [] Tho[mas] East and H[enry] Myddleton; for VVilliam Norton, OCLC 863468207, folio 30, recto:
      Wée maye woorſhippe neyther the Virgine Marie, neyther the Apoſtles, neyther any Saincte, neyther make holy dayes, or Temples for them, muche leſſe Canonize them, which comprehendeth all theſe.
    • 1613, Henry Ainsworth, “The 5. Point of Difference: In the Letter”, in An Animadversion to Mr Richard Clyftons Advertisement. [], Amsterdam: [] Giles Thorp, OCLC 57641590, page 79:
      In heaven, are the ſowls of men departed in the popiſh fayth, and delivered from purgatorie: ſome of which, the Pope canonizeth for Saincts, whom the people on earth are religiouſly to honour and pray unto, as their mediators with God.
    • 1675, [Mr. Mayo], “Sermon XV. Invocation of Saints and Angels, Unlawful.”, in Nathanael Vincent [i.e., Nathaniel Vincent], editor, The Morning-exercise against Popery. Or, The Principal Errors of the Church of Rome Detected and Confuted, [], London: [] A. Maxwell for Tho[mas] Parkhurst, [], OCLC 82210590, page 527:
      He muſt be of an eaſie belief, that can be certainly perſwaded that every one whom the Pope Canonizeth, and putteth into the Liſt of Saints, is ſo indeed.
    • 1869 September, “Spurious Churches”, in Christ is Coming! [], 5th edition, London: [] [F]or the author by John B. Day, [], published 1871, OCLC 81857758, part V (Re-organization of the One Holy Universal Church of Christ), page 197:
      Where to pray to thy suppositious saints? Where has it taught thee to enjoin men to pray to imaginary saints, whom thou canonizest from time to time?
    • 1947, Martin Luther, “An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate: 1520”, in [Charles M. Jacobs?], transl., Three Treatises: An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate. A Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. A Treatise on Christian liberty, Philadelphia, Pa.: Muhlenberg Press, OCLC 464117151, page 131:
      Nay, where pilgrimages are not successful, they begin to canonise saints, not in honor of the saints—for they are sufficiently honored without canonisation—but in order to draw crowds and bring in money.
    • 2001, Sarah Gallick, “Introduction”, in The Big Book of Women Saints, New York, N.Y.: HarperSanFrancisco, →ISBN, page 2:
      Since the twelfth century the pope has been the Church's sole authority for canonizing saints. But not even a pope can "make" a saint. As Pope Paul VI explained at the canonization of Julie Billiart (April 8): "We do not create, we do not confer saintliness, we recognize it, we proclaim it."
  2. (figuratively) To regard as a saint; to glorify, to exalt to the highest honour.
    • c. 1602 (date written), William Shakespeare, The Famous Historie of Troylus and Cresseid. [] (First Quarto), London: [] G[eorge] Eld for R[ichard] Bonian and H[enry] Walley, [], published 1609, OCLC 951696502, [Act II, scene ii]:
      She is a theame of honour and renowne, / A ſpurre to valiant and magnanimous deeds, / Whoſe preſent courage may beate downe our foes, / And fame in time to come canonize us, [...]
    • 1704, [William Darrell], “Dialogue VI. Eusebius Instructs Neander in the Duties that Regard our Neighbour.”, in A Gentleman Instructed in the Conduct of a Virtuous and Happy Life. [], 2nd edition, London: [] E. Evets [], OCLC 723131237, section V, page 148:
      The Poet puts all his Wit into the Mouths of Rooks and Bullies; and if an honeſt Man appear, he is ſure to be hooted at, and generally goes off both Fool and Cuckold. Is not this to condemn Virtue? to execute it in Effigie? and to canonize Vice by Deputy?
    • 1822, “Ozmin and Daraxa. A Tale.”, in The Pocket Magazine of Classic and Polite Literature, volume IX, number 53, London: [] John Arliss, [], OCLC 49701022, chapter 5, page 216:
      And because that in such turbulent affairs as this, words multiply more and more, and, together with the stir, reports gather strength and increase; and for that every one "canonizeth his own presumption," they began to murmer[sic – meaning murmur] against Don Louis, and the people of his house.
    • [1875], [Charles Maurice Davies], “George”, in Love Lyrics and Valentine Verses, for Young and Old. [], London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, [], OCLC 300638188, page 285:
      I am no mediæval maid, / Of saints obscure to brag on, / But one there is I canonize— / St. George who killed the dragon.
    • 1915 June, “another Irishman” [pseudonym], quoting [George] Bernard Shaw, “Bernard Shaw on Self Effacement”, in Frank Crowninshield, editor, Vanity Fair, volume 4, number 4, New York, N.Y.: Vanity Fair Publishing Company, OCLC 423870134, page 37:
      I'll never forgive the Kaiser [Wilhelm II, German Emperor] so long as I live, though naturally I'm for him in this war—I have to be—everybody else is against him. [...] To get any space at all now, I have to hustle around canonizing the Kaiser; [...]
    • 1921 September, John Galsworthy, “Old Jolyon Walks”, in To Let, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, OCLC 630505, part III, page 229:
      Fifty-eight years ago Jolyon had become an Eton boy, for old Jolyon's whim had been that he should be canonised at the greatest possible expense.
    • 2012, Jessica A. Fox, chapter 13, in Three Things You Need to Know about Rockets: A Real-life Scottish Fairy Tale, 1st trade paperback edition, New York, N.Y.: Marble Arch Press, Atria Publishing Group, published August 2013, →ISBN, page 122:
      American are perhaps more obsessed with the idea of royalty than our long-lost British brothers; our taste for anything royal, never satiated in a true democracy, manifests itself in the canonising of celebrities and their families and mass idealisation of political dynasties like the Kennedys.
  3. (Christianity) To formally declare (a piece of religious writing) to be part of the biblical canon.
    Antonym: uncanonize
    • 1657, [John] Cosin, “The Testimonies of the Ecclesiastical Writers in the Seventh Century”, in A Scholastical History of the Canon of the Holy Scripture: Or The Certain and Indubitate Books thereof as They are Received in the Church of England, London: [] R[oger] Norton for Timothy Garthwait [], OCLC 954899903, page 136:
      Yet becauſe there are Two Pretences made; One, that elſewhere he Canonizeth all the reſt of the Conteſted Books; and another, that in this place he detracteth nothing in that behalf from the Books of the Maccabes, we will clear the way before us, and anſwer them both.
    • 2017, Timothy H. Lim, “An Indicative Definition of the Canon”, in Timothy H. Lim with Kengo Akiyama, editors, When Texts are Canonized (Brown Judaic Studies; no. 359), Providence, R.I.: Brown Judaic Studies, →ISBN, page 22:
      Not all psalms that claim Davidic authorship were included in the canon, but those that were canonized frequently had this association.
  4. (by extension) To regard (an artistic or written work or its creator) as one of a group that are representative of a particular field.
    • 1930, Tenney Frank, “Republican Historiography and Livy”, in Life and Literature in the Roman Republic, Berkeley; Los Angeles, Calif.; London: University of California Press, published 1971, →ISBN, page 169:
      To these errors the Middle Ages contributed not a little by canonizing all the ancient authorities so that when modern historical criticism came into vogue the reaction against authority went too far and skepticism overleaped the mark.
    • 1994, Jonathan Lake Crane, “Terror and Everyday Life”, in Terror and Everyday Life: Singular Moments in the History of the Horror Film, Thousand Oaks, Calif.; London: SAGE Publications, →ISBN, page 1:
      [I]n canonizing horror films and ranking serial killers among the entertainment elite, have we made the perilous environment that lies just beyond the coursing marquee lights and pale glow of the video monitor an even more dangerous space?
  5. (chiefly Christianity) Especially of a church: to give official approval to; to authorize, to sanction.
    Antonym: uncanonize
    • 1715, Gilbert [Burnet], “Book IV. Of what Happen’d during the Reign of King Edward the VIth, from the Year 1547, to the Year 1553.”, in The History of the Reformation of the Church of England. The Third Part. [], London: [] J. Churchill [], OCLC 316345768, page 183:
      He ſhews, the Legate's Drift was to Canonize all the Abuſes of the Court of Rome: ſo they never ſuffer'd them to be treated of freely, but managed them like the Compounding of a Law-Suit: [...]
    • 1784, [Jean-Philippe-René] de La Bléterie, “History of the Emperor Jovian”, in John Duncombe, transl., Select Works of the Emperor Julian, and Some Pieces of the Sophist Libanius, Translated from the Greek. [], volume II, London: [] J[ohn] Nichols; [f]or T[homas] Cadell, [], OCLC 977011614, page 271:
      [T]hat a rhetorician, like Libanius, a Pagan even to madneſs, ſhould think the Chriſtians capable of attempting the life of Julian, is not ſurpriſing. [...] But that an eccleſiaſtical hiſtorian, like Sozomen, ſhould be tempted to canoniſe ſo deteſtable an action, might perhaps not be credited on my aſſertion.
    • 1998, Sean Cubitt, “Reading the Interface”, in Digital Aesthetics, London; Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications, →ISBN, page 9:
      The European library only achieves its characteristic design in 1843, with the separation of reading areas from bookstacks first attempted in library architecture at the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève at the Université de Paris. [...] [Anthony] Panizzi's British Museum Reading Room (stacks surrounding a central reading room) canonised the procedure, which dominates even the more recent tower stacks, in which librarianship triumphs over ideological and economic divides, [...]


Alternative forms[edit]

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See also[edit]


  1. ^ canonīzen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ canonize, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1888; “canonize, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]




  1. inflection of canonizar:
    1. first/third-person singular present subjunctive
    2. third-person singular imperative