May v. [imp. Might ] An auxiliary verb qualifying 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.”
May be, ∧ It may be, are used as equivalent to possibly, perhaps, maybe, by chance, peradventure. See 1st Maybe.
adv 1: in an incidental manner; "these magnificent achievements
were only incidentally influenced by Oriental models"
[syn: incidentally, accidentally]
2: through chance, "To sleep, perchance to dream.." [syn: perchance]
3: by accident; "betrayed by a word haply overheard" [syn: haply,
4: without advance planning; "they met accidentally" [syn: accidentally,
circumstantially, unexpectedly] [ant: intentionally]