May May (m[=a]), v. [imp. {Might} (m[imac]t)] [AS. pres. m[ae]g I am able, pret. meahte, mihte; akin to D. mogen, G. m["o]gen, OHG. mugan, magan, Icel. mega, Goth. magan, Russ. moche. [root]103. Cf. {Dismay}, {Main} strength, {Might}. The old imp. mought is obsolete, except as a provincial word.] An auxiliary verb qualifying the meaning of another verb, by expressing: (a) Ability, competency, or possibility; -- now oftener expressed by {can}. [1913 Webster]

How may a man, said he, with idle speech, Be won to spoil the castle of his health! --Spenser. [1913 Webster]

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. [1913 Webster]

For of all sad words of tongue or pen The saddest are these: ``It might have been.'' --Whittier. [1913 Webster] (b) Liberty; permission; allowance. [1913 Webster]

Thou mayst be no longer steward. --Luke xvi. 2. [1913 Webster] (c) Contingency or liability; possibility or probability. [1913 Webster]

Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance Some general maxims, or be right by chance. --Pope. [1913 Webster] (d) Modesty, courtesy, or concession, or a desire to soften a question or remark. [1913 Webster]

How old may Phillis be, you ask. --Prior. [1913 Webster] (e) Desire or wish, as in prayer, imprecation, benediction, and the like. ``May you live happily.'' --Dryden. [1913 Webster]

{May be}, & {It may be}, are used as equivalent to {possibly}, {perhaps}, {maybe}, {by chance}, {peradventure}. See 1st {Maybe}. [1913 Webster]

The Collaborative International Dictionary of English. 2000.

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  • Peradventure — Per ad*ven ture, adv. & conj. [OE. per aventure, F. par aventure. See {Per}, and {Adventure}.] By chance; perhaps; it may be; if; supposing. If peradventure he speak against me. Shak. [1913 Webster] Peradventure there be fifty righteous within… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Peradventure — Per ad*ven ture, n. Chance; hap; hence, doubt; question; as, proved beyond peradventure. South. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • peradventure — [pʉr΄əd ven′chər] adv. [ME perauenture < OFr par aventure < par (L per), by + aventure, a chance, ADVENTURE] Archaic 1. perhaps; possibly 2. by chance n. chance; question; doubt [beyond peradventure] …   English World dictionary

  • peradventure — 1620s, from M.E. peraventure (mid 15c.), from per auenture (late 13c.), from O.Fr. par aventure (see ADVENTURE (Cf. adventure)). Refashioned as though from Latin …   Etymology dictionary

  • peradventure — archaic or humorous ► ADVERB ▪ perhaps. ► NOUN ▪ uncertainty or doubt. ORIGIN from Old French per (or par) auenture by chance …   English terms dictionary

  • peradventure — I. adverb Etymology: Middle English par aventure, from Anglo French, by chance Date: 14th century archaic perhaps, possibly II. noun Date: 1627 1. doubt < a fact established beyond peradventure > …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • peradventure — adverb old use 1 perhaps 2 by chance: if peradventure we should meet …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • peradventure — adv. & n. archaic or joc. adv. perhaps. n. uncertainty; chance; conjecture; doubt (esp. beyond or without peradventure). Etymology: ME f. OF per or par auenture by chance (as PER, ADVENTURE) …   Useful english dictionary

  • peradventure — /perr euhd ven cheuhr, per /, n. 1. chance, doubt, or uncertainty. 2. surmise. adv. 3. Archaic. it may be; maybe; possibly; perhaps. [1250 1300; ME per aventure < OF. See PER, ADVENTURE] * * * …   Universalium

  • peradventure — 1. adverb perchance or maybe; perhaps 2. noun chance, doubt or uncertainty …   Wiktionary

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