Meaning of “may” in the English Dictionary

"may" in British English

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maymodal verb

uk /meɪ/ us /meɪ/

may modal verb (POSSIBILITY)

A2 used to express possibility:

There may be other problems that we don't know about.
I may see you tomorrow before I leave.
The cause of the accident may never be discovered.
The explosion may have been caused by a faulty electrical connection.
We'd better not interfere - she may not like it.
There may be some evidence to suggest she's guilty, but it's hardly conclusive.

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may modal verb (PERMISSION)

B1 formal 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?

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maynoun [ U ]

uk /meɪ/ us /meɪ/ also may blossom

Maynoun [ C or U ]

uk /meɪ/ us /meɪ/

A1 the fifth month of the year, after April and before June:

My mother's birthday is in May.
They got married on 12 May.
We're supposed to be moving into new offices next May.

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  • We went to Crete last May.
  • His birthday is in May.

(Definition of “may” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"may" in American English

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maymodal verb

us /meɪ/ present tense may, past tense might /mɑɪt/

may modal verb (POSSIBILITY)

used to express possibility:

She said she may decide to accept the job offer and may not.

may modal verb (PERMISSION)

used to ask or give permission:

May I use your telephone?

may modal verb (SUGGESTION)

used to make a suggestion or suggest a possibility in a polite way:

You may want to have a bite to eat before you leave.

Maynoun [ C/U ]

us /meɪ/

the fifth month of the year, after April and before June

(Definition of “may” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)