Alternative formsEdit


can +‎ not


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈkænɒt/, /kæˈnɒt/
  • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈkæ(n.)nɑt/, /ˈkɛ(n.)nɑt/, /kə(n)ˈnɑt/, /kɪ(n)ˈnɑt/
  • (file)
  • (Canada) IPA(key): /kəˈnɑt/
  • Hyphenation: can‧not
  • Rhymes: -ɒt



  1. Can not (be unable to).
    I cannot open the window. It is stuck.
  2. Be forbidden or not permitted to
    • 1668 December 19, James Dalrymple, “Mr. Alexander Seaton contra Menzies” in The Deciſions of the Lords of Council & Seſſion I (Edinburgh, 1683), page 575
      The Pupil after his Pupillarity, had granted a Diſcharge to one of the Co-tutors, which did extinguiſh the whole Debt of that Co-tutor, and conſequently of all the reſt, they being all correi debendi, lyable by one individual Obligation, which cannot be Diſcharged as to one, and ſtand as to all the reſt.
    • 2013 June 21, Karen McVeigh, “US rules human genes can't be patented”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 2, page 10:
      The US supreme court has ruled unanimously that natural human genes cannot be patented, a decision that scientists and civil rights campaigners said removed a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation.
    You cannot enter the hall without a ticket.
Usage notesEdit

Both the one-word form cannot and the two-word form can not are acceptable, but cannot is more common (in the Oxford English Corpus, three times as common). Authors more commonly opt for the two-word form in constructions where not is part of a set phrase, such as 'not only... but (also)': Paul can not only sing well, but also paint brilliantly.




cannot (plural cannots)

  1. Something that cannot be done.
    the cans and cannots




(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)


cannot m (plural cannots)

  1. (Jersey) duckling

Derived termsEdit