Canon (one “n”) refers to a collection of rules or texts that are considered to be authoritative. Shakespeare and Chaucer are part of the canon of Western literature, so you might read their work in an English class.

A canon can also be a body of work, like the Shakespeare canon, which includes all of the Bard's plays and poems. These days, many schools and colleges include more diverse and underrepresented authors in literature classes and encourage students to read works not included in the standard literary canon. The literary canon can change with time, and so can the cultural canon. Don't confuse this word with cannon with two n's, the big gun that shoots bowling-size balls at the enemy.

Definitions of canon
  1. noun
    a collection of books accepted as holy scripture especially the books of the Bible recognized by any Christian church as genuine and inspired
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    type of:
    sacred scripture, scripture
    any writing that is regarded as sacred by a religious group
  2. noun
    a set group of works that are considered to be high quality and representative of a field
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    type of:
    creative writing of recognized artistic value
  3. noun
    the collection of works by a writer or artist that are considered to be authentic
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    type of:
    body of work, oeuvre, work
    the total output of a writer or artist (or a substantial part of it)
  4. noun
    a rule or especially body of rules or principles generally established as valid and fundamental in a field or art or philosophy
    “the neoclassical canon
    canons of polite society”
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    type of:
    prescript, rule
    prescribed guide for conduct or action
  5. noun
    a complete list of saints that have been recognized by the Roman Catholic Church
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    type of:
    list, listing
    a database containing an ordered array of items (names or topics)
  6. noun
    a priest who is a member of a cathedral chapter
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    a canon who receives a prebend for serving the church
    type of:
    a clergyman in Christian churches who has the authority to perform or administer various religious rites; one of the Holy Orders
  7. noun
    a contrapuntal piece of music in which a melody in one part is imitated exactly in other parts
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    enigma canon, enigmatic canon, enigmatical canon, riddle canon
    a canon in which the entrances of successive parts were indicated by cryptic symbols and devices (popular in the 15th and 16th centuries)
    type of:
    composition, musical composition, opus, piece, piece of music
    a musical work that has been created
  8. noun
    a ravine formed by a river in an area with little rainfall
    synonyms: canyon
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    type of:
    a deep narrow steep-sided valley (especially one formed by running water)
Commonly confused words

cannon / canon

Cannon, with two n's, is a long heavy gun on wheels. Lose an n and the word canon is a set of rules or traditions. If you thought these words were spelled the same, you're not wrong: they used to be.

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