can of worms
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Related to can of worms: open a can of worms
can 1(kăn; kən when unstressed)
aux.v. past tense could (ko͝od)
a. Used to indicate physical or mental ability: I can carry both suitcases. Can you remember the war?
b. Used to indicate possession of a specified power, right, or privilege: The president can veto congressional bills.
c. Used to indicate possession of a specified capability or skill: I can tune the harpsichord as well as play it.
a. Used to indicate possibility or probability: I wonder if my long lost neighbor can still be alive. Such things can and do happen.
b. Used to indicate that which is permitted, as by conscience or feelings: One can hardly blame you for being upset.
c. Used to indicate probability or possibility under the specified circumstances: They can hardly have intended to do that.
3. Usage Problem Used to request or grant permission: Can I be excused?
[Middle English, first and third person sing. present tense of connen, to know how, from Old English cunnan; see gnō- in Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: Generations of grammarians and teachers have insisted that can should be used only to express the capacity to do something, and that may must be used to express permission. But children do not use can to ask permission out of a desire to be stubbornly perverse. They have learned it as an idiomatic expression from adults: After you clean your room, you can go outside and play. As part of the spoken language, this use of can is perfectly acceptable. This is especially true for negative questions, such as Can't I have the car tonight? probably because using mayn't instead of can't sounds unnatural. While the distinction between can and may still has its adherents in formal usage, the number appears to be falling. In our 2009 survey, 37 percent of the Usage Panel rejected can instead of may in the sentence Can I take another week to submit the application? But more than half of these said can was only "somewhat (rather than completely) unacceptable" in this use, and the overall percentage of disapproval fell from more than 50 percent in an earlier survey. · The heightened formality of may sometimes highlights the speaker's role in giving permission. You may leave the room when you are finished implies that permission is given by the speaker. You can leave the room when you are finished implies that permission is part of a rule or policy rather than a decision on the speaker's part. For this reason, may sees considerable use in official announcements: Students may pick up the application forms tomorrow. · Like may, can is also used to indicate what is possible: It may rain this afternoon. Bone spurs can be very painful. In this use, both can and may often have personal subjects: You may see him at the concert. Even an experienced driver can get lost in this town.
1. A usually cylindrical metal container.
a. An airtight container, usually made of tin-coated iron, in which foods or beverages are preserved.
b. The contents of such a container: ate a can of beans.
3. Slang A jail or prison.
4. Slang A toilet or restroom.
5. Slang The buttocks.
6. Slang A naval destroyer.
v. canned, can·ning, cans
1. To seal in an airtight container for future use; preserve: canning peaches.
2. Slang To make a recording of: can the audience's applause for a TV comedy show.
a. To end the employment of; fire. See Synonyms at dismiss.
b. To put an end or stop to: canned the TV show after one season; told the students to can the chatter.
To solicit cash donations for a charity or other organization such as a club or amateur sports team by holding out a can or other container in a public place.
can of corn Sports
Something that is easily accomplished, especially a routine catch of a fly ball in baseball.
can of worms
A complex or difficult problem.
in the can
Completed and ready for release, as a film or scene of a film.
[Middle English canne, a water container, from Old English.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
can′ of worms′
a source of many unpredictable and complicated problems.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
can of worms- Based on an image of a container of maggots for use as fish bait.
See also related terms for worms.
Farlex Trivia Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.
Switch to new thesaurus
|Noun||1.||can of worms - a source of unpredictable trouble and complexity|
trouble, problem - a source of difficulty; "one trouble after another delayed the job"; "what's the problem?"
colloquialism - a colloquial expression; characteristic of spoken or written communication that seeks to imitate informal speech
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
can of wormsnoun
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.