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American Dictionary of the English Language

Webster's Dictionary 1828

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Can


CAN, noun A cup or vessel for liquors, in modern times made of metal; as a can of ale.

CAN, verb intransitive preterit tense could, which is from another root. [See Could.]

1. To be able; to have sufficient strength or physical power. One man can lift a weight which another can not. A horse can run a certain distance in a given time.

2. To have means, or instruments, which supply power or ability. A man can build a house, or fit out a ship, if he has the requisite property. A nation cannot prosecute a war, without money or credit. I will lend you a thousand dollars, if I can

3. To be possible.

Nicodemus said, How can these thing be? John 3:2.

4. To have adequate moral power. A man can indulge in pleasure, or he can refrain. He can restrain his appetites, if he will.

5. To have just or legal competent power, that is, right; to be free from any restraint of moral, civil or political obligation, or from any positive prohibition. We can use a highway for travel, for this is permitted by law. A man can or cannot hold an office. The Jews could not eat certain kinds of animals which were declared to be unclean. The House of Commons in England can impeach, but the House of Lords only can try impeachments. In general, we can do whatever neither the laws of God nor of man forbid.

How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God. Genesis 34:1.

I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord, my God, to do less or more. Numbers 22:1.

6. To have natural strength, or capacity; to be susceptible of; to be able or free to undergo any change, or produce any effect, by the laws and constitution of nature, or by divine appointment. Silver can be melted, but cannot be changed into gold.

CAN the rush grow without mire? Job 8:11.

CAN the fig tree bear olive berries? James 3:8.

CAN faith save him? James 2:14.

7. To have competent strength, ability, fortitude, patience, etc., in a passive sense. He cannot bear reproof. I cannot endure this impertinence.

This is a hard saying; who can hear it? John 6:44.

8. To have the requisite knowledge, experience or skill. Young men are not admitted members of college, till they can translate Latin and Greek. An astronomer can calculate an eclipse, though he can not make a coat.

9. To have strength of inclination or motives sufficient to overcome obstacles, impediments, inconvenience or other objection.

I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. Luke 9:1.

I cannot rise and give thee - yet because of him importunity, he will rise and give him. Luke 9:1.

10. To have sufficient capacity; as, a vessel can not hold or contain the whole quantity.

CAN, verb transitive To know.