There are 3 main definitions of may in English:

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may1

Line breaks: may
Pronunciation: /meɪ
 
/

modal verb (3rd singular present may; past might /mʌɪt/)

1Expressing possibility: that may be true he may well win
More example sentences
  • This may well be true and look at the hatred that it has generated in most Western countries.
  • That may well be true of course, though few have ever stated it so bluntly.
  • That indeed may well be true but rather than finessing this issue it should surely be addressing it head on.
1.1Used when admitting that something is so before making another, more important point: they may have been old-fashioned but they were excellent teachers
More example sentences
  • They may not seem important at the time but, trust me, one day they could be more vital than a very vital thing indeed.
  • It may be deeply important to some people but it is essentially a part of life, it doesn't govern our lives.
  • It may not have felt like it, and he may not have admitted to it, but Johnson was a pioneering force.
2Used to ask for or to give permission: you may confirm my identity with your Case Officer, if you wish may I ask a few questions?
More example sentences
  • The club now says his identity may not be revealed until the end of the month, but insist the deal is still on.
  • Of course there is a right of appeal, which in some cases may not be exercised without prior permission.
  • None of the text or images from this site may be reproduced in whole or part without written permission.
3Expressing a wish or hope: may she rest in peace
More example sentences
  • I am writing in the hope you may be able to help me with family history research.
  • It is hoped the British submersible may be able to cut the submarine loose once raised to a suitable depth.
  • Her husband paid tribute to her as a loving family woman and hopes she may rest in the peace of God.

Origin

Old English mæg, of Germanic origin, from a base meaning 'have power'; related to Dutch mogen and German mögen, also to main1 and might2.

Usage

Traditionalists insist that one should distinguish between may (present tense) and might (past tense) in expressing possibility: I may have some dessert if I’m still hungry; she might have known her killer. However, this distinction is rarely observed today, and may and might are generally acceptable in either case: she may have visited yesterday; I might go and have a cup of tea.On the difference in use between may and can, see can1 (usage).

Phrases

be that as it may

1
Despite that; nevertheless.
Example sentences
  • Well, anyway, be that as it may, we have to wrap up here.
  • Anyway, be that as it may, I thought he was the most talented man on Earth.
  • It's really difficult, but be that as it may, we are able to get by with the first ship last week, and hopefully we can get that cargo out of the transit sheds and off the docks and to the market.

may as well

2
another way of saying might as well (see might1).

that is as may be

3
That may or may not be so (implying that this is not a significant consideration).

Definition of may in:

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There are 3 main definitions of may in English:

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may2

Line breaks: may
Pronunciation: /meɪ
 
/

noun

[mass noun]
The hawthorn or its blossom.

Origin

late Middle English: from May.

Definition of may in:

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There are 3 main definitions of may in English:

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May3

Line breaks: May
Pronunciation: /meɪ
 
/

noun

1The fifth month of the year, in the northern hemisphere usually considered the last month of spring: the new model makes its showroom debut in May the full system was deployed last May
More example sentences
  • Tour operators with summer programmes always struggle to fill the months of May and June.
  • It is going to give us a good starting point for the month of May but we still have a lot of work to do as does everyone else.
  • I feel the month of May is the most delightful time to be out and about on the river.
1.1 (one's May) literary One’s bloom or prime: others murmured that their May was passing

Origin

late Old English, from Old French mai, from Latin Maius (mensis) '(month) of the goddess Maia'.

More
  • Maia was one of the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas in Greek mythology. In Roman mythology she came to be identified with Maia Majesta, a goddess of fertility and of the spring, who is said to have given her name to the month of May. Since the late Middle Ages may has also been a name for hawthorn blossom or the hawthorn, which in Britain typically flowers in May. Many people believe that the proverb warning us not to leave off old or warm clothes until the end of May, ne'er cast a clout till May be out, refers to hawthorn blossom, but the first recorded example makes it clear that the word applies to the month. May Day has been known since the 13th century as a time for springtime festivities and the election of a pretty girl as May queen or Queen of the May to preside over them. In some countries it is now a holiday in honour of working people. The international radio distress signal Mayday is a representation of French m'aider, short for venez m'aider ‘come and help me’.

Definition of may in:

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