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From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary EnglishCanuteCa‧nute /kəˈnjuːt $ -ˈnuːt/  (?995–1035) the King of England from 1016 to 1035, who also became King of Denmark and Norway. According to an old story, King Canute once ordered the sea to stop coming in towards the land in order to show his servants that he was not as powerful as they said he was. People sometimes mention this story when they are talking about something that is so powerful that it is useless to try to stop it.
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