Language: Old English
Origin: mæg


1 modal verb
may1 S1 W1


if something may happen or may be true, there is a possibility that it will happen or be true but this is not certain [= might]:
I may be late, so don't wait for me.
Some chemicals may cause environmental damage.
There may not be enough money to pay for the repairs.
Well, I may have been wrong.
They may have called while you were out.
It may be that Minoan ships were built and repaired here.
Your job may well involve some travelling (=it is fairly likely).

possible to do something

if something may be done, completed etc in a particular way, that is how it is possible to do it [= can]:
The problem may be solved in a number of different ways.


a) used to say that someone is allowed to do something [= can]:
Thank you. You may go now.
There is a set of rules to show what members may and may not do.
You may sit down or stand, just as you wish.
No one may own more than 10% of the shares.

may I/we ...?

spoken formal used to ask politely for permission to do something:
May I come in and wait?
May we use your office for a few minutes?

in polite expressions

spoken formal used to say, ask, or suggest something in a polite way:
All these things, if I may say so, are entirely irrelevant.
Who, may I ask, is Wotherspoon?
May I suggest that you consider the matter further before taking any action.


used to say that even though one thing is true, something else which seems very different is also true:
I may be slow, but at least I don't make stupid mistakes.
Although this may sound like a simple process, great care is needed.
Strange as it may seem, I always felt I belonged here.

may as well

spoken used to suggest that someone should do something, because there is no good reason to do anything else [= might as well]:
If there's nothing more to do, we may as well go to bed.
You may as well tell us now - we'll find out sooner or later.

may somebody/something do something

formal used to express a wish or hope:
We pray for those who died - may they rest in peace.
It is a fine tradition and long may it continue!


formal used after 'so that' or 'in order that' to say that someone does something in order to make something else possible:
The hero sacrifices his life so that his friend may live.

be that as it may

formal in spite of what you have just mentioned:
Perhaps there isn't one single system that will work for everyone. Be that as it may, we all need order in our lives.

may well

used to say that there is a good reason for a reaction, question, or feeling:
'What's all the noise?' 'You may well ask.'

Dictionary results for "may"
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