Definition: Canal

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Borrowed from Middle French canal, from Old French canal, from Latin canālis (channel; canal), from canālis (canal), from canna (reed, cane), from Ancient Greek κάννα or kánna (reed), from Akkadian 𒄀 or qanû (reed), from Sumerian 𒄀𒈾 or Doublet of channel.


canal (plural canals)

  1. An artificial waterway or artificially improved river used for travel, shipping, or irrigation.
  2. (anatomy) A tubular channel within the body.
  3. (astronomy) One of the faint, hazy markings resembling straight lines on early telescopic images of the surface of Mars; one of the Martian canals.

Usage notes

Occasionally applied to similar natural waterways, such as Hood Canal.

Derived terms

  • alar canal
  • alimentary canal
  • auditory canal
  • birth canal
  • canal basin
  • canalize
  • carpal canal
  • central canal
  • cervical canal
  • ear canal
  • Panama Canal
  • ship canal
  • Suez Canal

Related terms

  • channel
  • channelization
  • channelize
  • canalization


canal (third-person singular simple present canals, present participle canaling or canalling, simple past and past participle canaled or canalled)

  1. To dig an artificial waterway in or to (a place), especially for drainage.
  2. To travel along a canal by boat.


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