“slope, slant,” late 14c., Scottish, “edge, brink,” from Old North French cant “corner” (perhaps via Middle Low German kante or Middle Dutch kant), from Vulgar Latin *canthus, from Latin cantus “iron tire of a wheel,” possibly from a Celtic word meaning “rim of wheel, edge” (cf. Welsh cant “bordering of a circle, tire, edge,” Breton cant “circle”), from PIE *kam-bo- “corner, bend,” from root *kemb- “to bend, turn, change” (cf. Greek kanthos “corner of the eye,” Russian kutu “corner”).


1706, contraction of cannot.

In addition to the idioms beginning with can’t

  • can’t abide
  • can’t but
  • can’t complain
  • can’t do anything with
  • can’t fight City Hall
  • can’t help
  • can’t hit the broad side of a barn
  • can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
  • can’t make head or tail of
  • can’t punch one’s way out of a paper bag
  • can’t see beyond the end of one’s nose.
  • can’t seem to
  • can’t see the forest for the trees
  • can’t stand
  • can’t wait

also see:

  • beggars can’t be choosers
  • if you can’t beat them, join them
  • you can’t take it with you
  • you can’t win them all

Also see undercan.

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