What Do “Cannon” And “Canon” Mean?

Being homophones, “cannon” and “canon” differ slightly in spelling (although not too much) but sound the same when pronounced. Due to this, many people confuse their meanings and accidentally use them interchangeably.

Let’s get into what these words mean and how you can use them in your writing without further ado. 

What Does “Cannon” Mean 

Cannon” is usually used as a noun that describes a large weapon or firearm used in war. In common media, it is not uncommon to see them depicted on pirate ships or in 19th-century combat. For example: 

  • I aimed my cannon and prepared to fire. 
  • The captain told his crew to prepare the cannons.
  • After firing, cannons require a large amount of care and maintenance. 

A picture of an old cannon and the caption "cannon"

Cannon” has a second use as a verb meaning “to attack something via a cannon physically.” It can also describe the action of hitting or colliding with something. For instance: 

  • cannoned into a wall when running around a corner. 
  • The battalion cannoned the enemy lines. 

When speaking more colloquially, “cannon” can also be used in sports such as pool.

What Does “Canon” Mean? 

Canon” is a noun that usually refers to a set of rules, laws, or texts. For example: 

  • The Yorkshire canon consists of 10 written books. 
  • Our religion has a fairly strict canon of rules. 

canon” can also describe when a literary work or idea is generally accepted as authentic or true. For instance, it is commonly used to describe if ideas presented on the internet are true to a fictional universe. For instance: 

  • The idea of the supervillain being unstoppable is usually canon.
  • Shakespeare’s written canon is widely appreciated by people today. 

When used in a religious context as a verb, “canonize” means “to give saint status” or “bestow canonical status.” Even though you can use it in most religious contexts, it does have a certain specificity toward the Catholic faith. 

  • “The first saint canonized by a pope was Ulrich, bishop of Augsburg, who died in 973″ – Britannica

In music, a canon is a contrapuntal technique that uses a melody with one or more imitations played after a given duration (quarter rest, one measure, etc.) Think “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” beginning 4 beats apart in difference voices.

  • One of the most famous musical canons is Pachabel’s Canon in D.


To sum up, “cannon” can be used as a noun or verb that refers to the old-fashioned weapon or the use of the said weapon. In contrast, “canon” is a noun that refers to a body of rules or laws. Additionally, it can refer to an accepted literary work or a music composition technique.

Canonize” can be used as a verb to describe when someone is given saint or canonical status. 

In the end, these distinct definitions and differences should help you understand when you can use these words in your writing! 

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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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