Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English


English definition of “may”


modal verb (PERMISSION)    /meɪ/ formal
B1 used to ask or give permission : A reader may borrow up to six books at any one time . "May I help myself to some more food ?" "Yes, of course ." Hi, my name's Tiffany. How may I help you? → Compare might modal verbAllowing and permittingPolite expressions might modal verbGrammar:Can, could or may: typical errorsGrammar:MayGrammar:May: formsGrammar:May: uses
(Definition of may modal verb (PERMISSION) from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
Focus on the pronunciation of may

Browse related topics

You are looking at an entry to do with Polite expressions, but you might be interested in these topics from the Admiration and respect topic area:

Definitions of “may” in other dictionaries

Word of the Day


to pour liquid slowly over something, especially in a thin line or in small drops

Word of the Day


Read our blog about how the English language behaves.

Learn More

New Words

Find words and meanings that have just started to be used in English, and let us know what you think of them.

Learn More