Canon Vs Cannon: From Holy Scripture to Big Guns

Homophones like canon vs cannon can be confusing, but this guide will help you understand their meanings.

Homophones often trip up writers, even excellent writers, because they sound the same in spoken English, but have different meanings based on their spelling. Canon vs cannon is a common pair of homophones that can get tricky. 

Thankfully, there are tools you can use to keep these two commonly misused words straight. Knowing the definitions of each word and seeing some examples will help you use them properly.

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Understanding Canon Vs Cannon

Canon vs cannon – from Holy Scripture to big guns

To write cannon and canon correctly, you must understand what the two words mean. Once you get them straight in your mind, using them correctly is fairly simple.

The Etymology of Canon

The word “canon” has an interesting etymology. It comes from the Greek word kanon that means “rule.” 

Over time, Latin transformed that to canonicus, which in Latin means “according to rule.” As European law began to spread, the word canonicus spread to English and French. Soon the word became canon. 

The Definition of Canon

Etymology of canon
Canon comes from the Greek word kanon that means “rule” 

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, canon means “rule or law.” It can also be a noun that refers to a body of writing or other works. This can show up in several ways in the English language.

Canon in Ethical or Church Law

Canon may refer to church dogma or canonical laws that oversee a religious group. Similarly, you may refer to a “canon of ethics” when referring to a list of ethical beliefs that society accepts.

Canon in Written Works

Canon can also refer to a body of writing or the written work of a particular author or group. For example:

  • The canon of a Holy Scripture is all the books believed to fit within the confines of that religious belief.
  • The canon of an author, such as the canon of Shakespeare, are all the written, verified works of a writer.
  • A body of written work grouped together based on tradition, but that may have different authors. 

Canon as a Verb

Canon is almost always a noun, but the variety “canonize” is a verb. To canonize something is to give it official sanction or approval, often by a church, according to Merriam-Webster. When a deceased person in the Catholic church becomes a saint, this is canonizing the person.

Examples of Canon Used Properly

Here are some sentences that use canon properly:

  • The Torah is the canon of scripture that the Jewish people refer to as the Law.
  • We studied much of the canon of Shakespeare in our senior literature class. 
  • After their deaths, popes are usually canonized.

The Definition of Cannon

Cannon can be both a verb or a noun. Is most common definition is the noun definition, which means “a large gun that shoots a cannonball or other heavy projectile.” As a noun, it can also refer to a strong throwing arm. However, it can also be a verb meaning “to discharge a cannon” or “to knock into something forcefully.”

Etymology of Cannon

Etymology Of cannon
The word cannone came to refer to the big gun with the large barrel

The first use of a word that looks like cannon was in the Sumerian-Akkadian language, which eventually transformed into the Greek word kanna. This meant cane. In Latin the spelling was canna, but the word had the same meaning.

In Old French the word became cane, and it also meant spear. Old Italian and Old French introduced cannone in the 14th century, and this word meant a large barrel. 

When the cannon as we know it today came on the scene in 1400, the word cannone came to refer to the big gun with the large barrel. Eventually, the “e” disappeared and “cannon” became the common spelling.

Phrases that Use Cannon

Several common phrases use the word cannon. These include:

  • Cannon fodder – This refers to something expendable, such as soldiers sent to take the cannon fire before the generals went in during Civil War battles.
  • Cannonball – The ball used in a cannon, or a heavy load that comes at a person.

Examples of Cannon

Here are some examples of cannon used in a sentence.

  • The heavy cannon fire took out the first line of soldiers.
  • The pirates loaded the cannon to fire on their enemies.
  • The toddler was running so quickly he cannoned into his brother, knocking them both to the ground.

Synonyms of Cannon and Canon

Though most people use the word cannon when referring to a large piece of artillery, there are some synonyms as well. These include:

  • Howitzer
  • Mortar
  • Big Bertha
  • Long Tom
  • Heavy artillery

The word canon has synonyms as well, which are:

  • Law
  • Tenet
  • Precept
  • Oeuvre

A Final Word on Canon vs Cannon

Cannon with two n’s is a noun that means a big mounted gun or a verb that means to run into something forcefully. Canon with one refers to rules, laws or bodies of written work.

One trick that can help you keep the two straight is this: consider a double-barrel shotgun. Cannon, with double n’s, is the form that refers to a gun. Associating the double-barrel with the double n’s may help you remember the difference between the two words. If you liked this post, you might be interested in our diffuse vs. defuse guide.

FAQs About Canon vs Cannon

What is a canon in fandom?

Fandom refers to the community of fans around a book, movie or TV show. The canon refers to the source story, such as the original book, that fans use to write fan fiction. Fan fiction must stay true to the original canon to gain acceptance among other fans.

What is the difference between canon and cannon?

Cannon means a big gun or to run into something with force. Canon means a list of rules or laws or a body of written work.