whitethorn, English hawthorn, may, Crataegus laevigata, Crataegus oxycantha

(noun) thorny Eurasian shrub of small tree having dense clusters of white to scarlet flowers followed by deep red berries; established as an escape in eastern North America


(noun) the month following April and preceding June

Source: WordNet® 3.1

Etymology 1


may (third-person singular simple present may, present participle -, simple past might, past participle (obsolete) mought or -)

(obsolete, intransitive) To be strong; to have power (over). [8th–17th c.]

(obsolete, auxiliary) To be able; can. [8th–17th c.]

(intransitive, poetic) To be able to go. [from 9th c.]

(modal auxiliary verb, defective) To have permission to, be allowed. Used in granting permission and in questions to make polite requests. [from 9th c.]

Synonyms: can, could, might

(modal auxiliary verb, defective) Expressing a present possibility; possibly. [from 13th c.]

Synonyms: could, might

(subjunctive present, defective) Expressing a wish (with present subjunctive effect). [from 16th c.]

Synonym: might

Used in modesty, courtesy, or concession, or to soften a question or remark.

Usage notes

• May is now a defective verb. It has no infinitive, no past participle, and no future tense. Forms of to be allowed to are used to replace these missing tenses.

• The simple past (both indicative and subjunctive) of may is might

• The present tense is negated as may not, which can be contracted to mayn't, although this is old-fashioned; the simple past is negated as might not, which can be contracted to mightn't.

• May has archaic second-person singular present forms mayest and mayst.

• Usage of this word in the sense of possibly is considered incorrect by some speakers and writers, as it blurs the meaning of the word in the sense have permission to. These speakers and writers prefer to use the word might instead.

• Wishes are often cast in the imperative rather than the subjunctive mood, not using the word may, as in Have a great day! rather than May you have a great day.

Etymology 2


may (uncountable)

The hawthorn bush or its blossoms.


may (third-person singular simple present mays, present participle maying, simple past and past participle mayed)

(poetic, intransitive) To gather may, or flowers in general.

(poetic, intransitive) To celebrate May Day.

Etymology 3


may (plural mays)

(archaic) A maiden.


• Amy, MYA, Mya, Yam, mya, yam


Proper noun

May (plural Mays)

The fifth month of the Gregorian calendar, following April and preceding June.

A female given name from English, pet name for Mary and Margaret, reinforced by the month and plant meaning.

A surname.

Usage notes

May (or Mae) is often used in conjoined names (e.g, Lillie Mae, Katie Mae, Fannie Mae).


• Amy, MYA, Mya, Yam, mya, yam

Source: Wiktionary

May, v. [imp. Might] Etym: [AS. pres. mæg I am able, pret. meahte, mihte; akin to D. mogen, G. mögen, OHG. mugan, magan, Icel. mega, Goth. magan, Russ. moche. Dismay, Main strength, Might. The old imp. mought is obsolete, except as a provincial word.]

Definition: An auxiliary verb qualifyng the meaning of another verb, by expressing: (a) Ability, competency, or possibility; -- now oftener expressed by can. How may a man, said he, with idle speech, Be won to spoil the castle of his health ! Spenser. For what he [the king] may do is of two kinds; what he may do as just, and what he may do as possible. Bacon. For of all sad words of tongue or pen The saddest are these: "It might have been." Whittier. (b) Liberty; permission; allowance. Thou mayst be no longer steward. Luke xvi. 2. (c) Contingency or liability; possibility or probability. Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance Some general maxims, or be right by chance. Pope. (d) Modesty, courtesy, or concession, or a desire to soften a question or remark. How old may Phillis be, you ask. Prior. (e) Desire or wish, as in prayer, imprecation, benediction, and the like. "May you live happily." Dryden. May be, and It may be, are used as equivalent to possibly, perhaps, by chance, peradventure. See 1st Maybe.

May, n. Etym: [Cf. Icel. mær, Goth. mawi; akin to E. maiden.

Definition: A maiden. [Obs.] Chaucer.

May, n. Etym: [F. Mai, L. Maius; so named in honor of the goddess Maia (Gr.

1. The fifth month of the year, containing thirty-one days. Chaucer.

2. The early part or springtime of life. His May of youth, and bloom of lustihood. Shak.

3. (Bot.)

Definition: The flowers of the hawthorn; -- so called from their time of blossoming; also, the hawthorn. The palm and may make country houses gay. Nash. Plumes that micked the may. Tennyson.

4. The merrymaking of May Day. Tennyson. Italian may (Bot.), a shrubby species of Spiræa (S. hypericifolia) with many clusters of small white flowers along the slender branches.

– May apple (Bot.), the fruit of an American plant (Podophyllum peltatum). Also, the plant itself (popularly called mandrake), which has two lobed leaves, and bears a single egg-shaped fruit at the forking. The root and leaves, used in medicine, are powerfully drastic.

– May beetle, May bug (Zoöl.), any one of numerous species of large lamellicorn beetles that appear in the winged state in May. They belong to Melolontha, and allied genera. Called also June beetle.

– May Day, the first day of May; -- celebrated in the rustic parts of England by the crowning of a May queen with a garland, and by dancing about a May pole.

– May dew, the morning dew of the first day of May, to which magical properties were attributed.

– May flower (Bot.), a plant that flowers in May; also, its blossom. See Mayflower, in the vocabulary.

– May fly (Zoöl.), any species of Ephemera, and allied genera; -- so called because the mature flies of many species appear in May. See Ephemeral fly, under Ephemeral.

– May game, any May-day sport.

– May lady, the queen or lady of May, in old May games.

– May lily (Bot.), the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis).

– May pole. See Maypole in the Vocabulary.

– May queen, a girl or young woman crowned queen in the sports of May Day.

– May thorn, the hawthorn.

Source: Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary 1913 Edition


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