Generally or officially accepted as primary, or most correct. For example, the canonical hostname of an Internet host is given by the A record. Other names are given by CNAME records. Quantum Chromodynamics is the canonical theory of the strong interaction. The canonical way to make a martini is with an olive. The canonical music to listen to while stoned is Pink Floyd or Cypress Hill.

candygrammar = C = card walloper

canonical adj.

[very common; historically, `according to religious law'] The usual or standard state or manner of something. This word has a somewhat more technical meaning in mathematics. Two formulas such as 9 + x and x + 9 are said to be equivalent because they mean the same thing, but the second one is in `canonical form' because it is written in the usual way, with the highest power of x first. Usually there are fixed rules you can use to decide whether something is in canonical form. The jargon meaning, a relaxation of the technical meaning, acquired its present loading in computer-science culture largely through its prominence in Alonzo Church's work in computation theory and mathematical logic (see Knights of the Lambda Calculus). Compare vanilla.

Non-technical academics do not use the adjective `canonical' in any of the senses defined above with any regularity; they do however use the nouns `canon' and `canonicity' (not **canonicalness or **canonicality). The `canon' of a given author is the complete body of authentic works by that author (this usage is familiar to Sherlock Holmes fans as well as to literary scholars). `The canon' is the body of works in a given field (e.g., works of literature, or of art, or of music) deemed worthwhile for students to study and for scholars to investigate.

The word `canon' has an interesting history. It derives ultimately from the Greek `kanon' (akin to the English `cane') referring to a reed. Reeds were used for measurement, and in Latin and later Greek the word `canon' meant a rule or a standard. The establishment of a canon of scriptures within Christianity was meant to define a standard or a rule for the religion. The above non-techspeak academic usages stem from this instance of a defined and accepted body of work. Alongside this usage was the promulgation of `canons' (`rules') for the government of the Catholic Church. The techspeak usages ("according to religious law") derive from this use of the Latin `canon'.

Hackers invest this term with a playfulness that makes an ironic contrast with its historical meaning. A true story: One Bob Sjoberg, new at the MIT AI Lab, expressed some annoyance at the incessant use of jargon. Over his loud objections, GLS and RMS made a point of using as much of it as possible in his presence, and eventually it began to sink in. Finally, in one conversation, he used the word `canonical' in jargon-like fashion without thinking. Steele: "Aha! We've finally got you talking jargon too!" Stallman: "What did he say?" Steele: "Bob just used `canonical' in the canonical way."

Of course, canonicality depends on context, but it is implicitly defined as the way hackers normally expect things to be. Thus, a hacker may claim with a straight face that `according to religious law' is not the canonical meaning of `canonical'.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Ca*non"ic (?), Ca*non"ic*al (?), a [L. canonicus, LL. canonicalis, fr. L. canon: cf. F. canonique. See canon.]

Of or pertaining to a canon; established by, or according to a, canon or canons.

"The oath of canonical obedience."


Canonical books, ∨ Canonical Scriptures, those books which are declared by the canons of the church to be of divine inspiration; -- called collectively the canon. The Roman Catholic Church holds as canonical several books which Protestants reject as apocryphal. -- Canonical epistles, an appellation given to the epistles called also general or catholic. See Catholic epistles, under Catholic. -- Canonical form Math., the simples or most symmetrical form to which all functions of the same class can be reduced without lose of generality. -- Canonical hours, certain stated times of the day, fixed by ecclesiastical laws, and appropriated to the offices of prayer and devotion; also, certain portions of the Breviary, to be used at stated hours of the day. In England, this name is also given to the hours from 8 a. m. to 3 p. m. (formerly 8 a. m. to 12 m.) before and after which marriage can not be legally performed in any parish church. -- Canonical letters, letters of several kinds, formerly given by a bishop to traveling clergymam or laymen, to show that they were entitled to receive the communion, and to distinguish them from heretics. -- Canonical life, the method or rule of living prescribed by the ancient cleargy who lived in community; a course of living prescribed for the clergy, less rigid that the monastic, and more restrained that the secular. -- Canonical obedience, submission to the canons of a canons of a church, especially the submission of the inferior clergy to their bishops, and of other religious orders to their supriors. -- Canonical punishments, such as the church may inflict, as excommunication, degradation, penance, etc. -- Canonical sins Anc. Church., those for which capital punishment or public penance decreed by the canon was inflicted, as idolatry, murder, adultery, heresy.


© Webster 1913.

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