First Name
in the U.S.
since 1880
Last Name
in the U.S.
in 2010
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How to Pronounce Can

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Meaning and Origin

What does the name Can mean? Find out below.

Origin and Meaning of Can

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Webster's Unabridged Dictionary
an (obs.) form of began, imp. & p. p. of Begin, sometimes used in old poetry.

Note: See Gan

noun Can
  1. A drinking cup; a vessel for holding liquids."Fill the cup and fill can, Have a rouse before the morn." [Tennyson.]
  2. A vessel or case of tinned iron or of sheet metal, of various forms, but usually cylindrical; as, a can of tomatoes; an oil can; a milk can .

Note: ☞ A can may be a cylinder open at the top, as for receiving the sliver from a carding machine, or with a removable cover or stopper, as for holding tea, spices, milk, oysters, etc., or with handle and spout, as for holding oil, or hermetically sealed, in canning meats, fruits, etc. The name is also sometimes given to the small glass or earthenware jar used in canning.

Etymology: OE. & AS. canne; akin to D. Kan, G. Kanne, OHG. channa, Sw. Kanna, Dan. kande

verb Can
To preserve by putting in sealed cans
verb Can
  1. To know; to understand.(Obs)"I can rimes of Rodin Hood." [Piers Plowman.]"I can no Latin, quod she." [Piers Plowman.]"Let the priest in surplice white, That defunctive music can." [Shak.]
  2. To be able to do; to have power or influence.(Obs)"The will of Him who all things can." [Milton.]"For what, alas, can these my single arms?" [Shak.]"Mæcænas and Agrippa, who can most with Cæsar." [Beau. & Fl.]
  3. To be able; -- followed by an infinitive without to; as, I can go, but do not wish to.
    synonyms: Can but Can not but. It is an error to use the former of these phrases where the sens requires the latter. If we say, “I can but perish if I go,” “But” means only, and denotes that this is all or the worst that can happen. When the apostle Peter said. “We can not but speak of the things which we have seen and heard.” he referred to a moral constraint or necessety which rested upon him and his associates; and the meaning was, We cannot help speaking, We cannot refrain from speaking. This idea of a moral necessity or constraint is of frequent occurrence, and is also expressed in the phrase, “I can not help it.” Thus we say. “I can not but hope,” “I can not but believe,” “I can not but think,” “I can not but remark,” etc., in cases in which it would be an error to use the phrase can but.
    "Yet he could not but acknowledge to himself that there was something calculated to impress awe, . . . in the sudden appearances and vanishings . . . of the masque" [De Quincey.]"Tom felt that this was a rebuff for him, and could not but understand it as a left-handed hit at his employer." [Dickens.]

Note: The transitive use is obsolete

Etymology: OE. cunnen cannen1st sing. pres. I can), to know, know how, be able, AS. cunnan, 1st sing. pres. ic cann or can, pl. cunnon, 1st sing. imp. cūðefor cunðe); p. p. cūðfor cunð); akin to OS. Kunnan, D. Kunnen, OHG. chunnan, G. können, Icel. kunna, Goth. Kunnan, and E. ken to know. The present tense I canAS. ic cann) was originally a preterit, meaning I have known or Learned, and hence I know know how. √45. See Ken Know; cf. Con Cunning Uncouth

Other Dictionary Sources
  1. Airtight sealed metal container for food or drink or paint etc.
  2. A room or building equipped with one or more toilets
  3. A plumbing fixture for defecation and urination
  4. The fleshy part of the human body that you sit on
  5. A buoy with a round bottom and conical top
  6. The quantity contained in a can
  7. Preserve in a can or tin
  8. Terminate the employment of; discharge from an office or position

From Middle English can, first and third person singular of connen, cunnen (“to be able, know how”), from Old English can(n), first and third person singular of cunnan (“to know how”), from Proto-Germanic *kunnaną, from Proto-Indo-European *ǵneh₃- (whence know). Compare Dutch kunnen, Low German könen, German können, Danish and Norwegian Bokmål kunne, Swedish and Norwegian Nynorsk kunna. More at canny, cunning.

From Middle English canne, from Old English canne (“glass, container, cup, can”), from Proto-Germanic *kannǭ (“can, tankard, mug, cup”), perhaps from Proto-Indo-European *gan-, *gandʰ- (“a vessel”). Cognate with Scots can (“can”), West Frisian kanne (“a jug, pitcher”), Dutch kan (“pot, mug”), German Kanne (“can, tankard, mug”), Danish kande (“can, mug, a measure”), Swedish kanna (“can, tankard, mug”), Icelandic kanna (“a can”).

  1. A more or less cylindrical vessel for liquids, usually of steel or aluminium.
  2. A container used to carry and dispense water for plants (a watering can).
  3. A tin-plate canister, often cylindrical, for preserved foods such as fruit, meat, or fish.
  4. (archaic) A chamber pot, now (US, slang) a toilet.
    Shit or get off the can.
  5. (US, slang) A place with a toilet: a lavatory.
    Bob's in the . You can wait a few minutes or just leave it with me.
  6. (US, slang) Buttocks.
  7. (slang) Jail or prison.
    Bob's in the . He won't be back for a few years.
  8. (slang) Headphones.
  9. (obsolete) A drinking cup.
  10. (nautical) A cube-shaped buoy or marker used to denote a port-side lateral mark

    can was also found in the following language(s): Afar, Asturian, Azeri, Catalan, Classical Nahuatl, Galician, Interlingua, Irish, Istriot, Italian, Ligurian, Lojban, Mandarin, Occitan, Old Portuguese, Old Provençal, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Turkish, Venetian, Vietnamese, Volapük, and Welsh

    Notable Persons Named Can

    Can Dündar is a columnist, television presenter, documentary film, tv host, and documentarian. He holds the title Ph.D. and Doctor of Philosophy. Can was born on June 16th, 1961 in Ankara, Turkey.


    Can Bonomo is a musician. He has had major accomplishments since 2005. Can was born on May 16th, 1987 in İzmir.


    Can was born on June 21st, 1924. He died in 1968.


    Can Atilla is a new-age music musician. Can was born in 1969 in Ankara, Turkey.


    Can Arat is a soccer player for the Antalyaspor, Fenerbahçe S.K., Karşıyaka S.K., Sivasspor, İstanbul Başakşehir F.K., Turkey national under-17 football team, Turkey national under-19 football team, and Turkey national under-21 football team. Can was born on January 21st, 1984 in Istanbul.


    He was most prominent from 1973 to 2007. Can was born on August 27th, 1955 in Budapest, Hungary.


    Notable Persons With the Last Name Can

    Emre Can is a soccer player for the Liverpool F.C., Eintracht Frankfurt, FC Bayern Munich, FC Bayern Munich II, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, and Germany national youth football team. Emre was born on January 12th, 1994 in Frankfurt, Germany.


    Sibel Can is an ottoman classical music and folk rock singing, actor, and dance. Sibel was given the name Sibel Cangure on August 1st, 1970.


    Erkan Can is an actor. He was most active from 1974 to present. Erkan was born on November 1st, 1958 in Bursa.


    Tang Can is a folk music and war song singing. She was most prominent from 1995 to present. Tang was born on June 12th, 1975 in Lichuan, Hubei.


    Xue was born in 1953 in Changsha. Xue is also known as Deng and Xiaohua.


    Eyup was born in 1973 in Adana.


    Where is the name Can popular?

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    Popularity of Can as a last name

    The map shows the absolute popularity of the name Can as a last name in each of the states. See other popular names in New York, Illinois, or New Jersey.

    Common last names for Can

    • Nguyen
    • Tran
    • Le
    • Thai
    • Ha

    Ethnicity Distribution

    Ethnicity Can U.S.
      White 34.18% 64.26%
      African American 3.10% 11.96%
      Asian, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander 21.97% 4.85%
      American Indian and Alaska Native 0.00% 0.69%
      Two or More Ethnicities 0.00% 1.76%
      Hispanic or Latino 37.65% 16.26%

    Of Last Name Can

    People with the last name Can are most frequently White, Asian, Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander, or Hispanic or Latino

    Entire United States

    Fun Facts about the name Can

    • How Popular is the name Can? Can is the 18,682nd most popular name of all time. As a last name Can was the 23,750th most popular name in 2010.
    • How many people with the first name Can have been born in the United States? From 1880 to 2017, the Social Security Administration has recorded 396 babies born with the first name Can in the United States. That's more than enough people named Can to occupy the territory of Pitcairn Islands (United Kingdom) with an estimated population of 66 (as of July 1, 2008).
    • What year were 5 or more babies first named Can? The name was first given to 5 or more babies in the year 1970 when it was given as a first name to 5 new born babies.
    • When was Can first recorded in the United States? The oldest recorded birth by the Social Security Administration for the first name Can is Saturday, January 26th, 1878.
    • What year had the most people named Can born? The highest recorded use of the first name Can was in 2016 with a total of 27 babies.
    • Random Can Factoid: According to the 2016 U.S. Social Security Administration data, the first name Can is not a popular baby boy's name in New York. Imagine that, only 5 babies in New York have the same name as you in 2016.
    • Weird things about the name Can: Your name in reverse order is Nac. A random rearrangement of the letters in your name (anagram) will give Can. How do you pronounce that?
    • How many people have the last name Can? In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau surveyed 1,065 people with the last name Can.
    • How likely are you to meet someone with the last name of Can? Chances are, most people haven't met someone with Can as their last name since less than 1 person in 278k people have that last name. If you know one, consider yourself lucky!

    What Cans Have Visited This Page?

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    • Sources:
    • U.S. Census Bureau: Frequently Occurring Surnames from the Census 2000 (public domain).
    • U.S. Social Security Administration: Popular Baby Names, Death Master File (public domain).
    • 1913 Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary via the Collaborative International Dictionary of English (License)
    • Other Dictionary Sources: WordNet 3.1 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University (License).
    • Wiktionary: Titles and License.
    • Notable persons via Wikipedia: Titles and License. Click each image for the attribution information.