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May, n.2

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Forms:  late Old English–1500s Mai, Middle English Mæi, Middle English Maiȝe, Middle English–1500s Maii, Middle English–1500s Maij, Middle English–1600s Maye, Middle English– May, 1500s–1600s Maie; Scottish pre-1700 Mai, pre-1700 Maie, pre-1700 Maii, pre-1700 Maij, pre-1700 Maye, pre-1700 Mayi, pre-1700 Mey, pre-1700 1700s– May, pre-1700 1700s– Mey, 1800s– mei; also Irish English 1800s Mye. (Show Less)
Frequency (in current use):  Show frequency band information
Origin: Of multiple origins. Partly a borrowing from French. Partly a borrowing from Latin. Etymons: French mai; Latin Māius.
Etymology: < Anglo-Norman mai, maii, Old French, Middle French, French mai (c1100) and its etymon classical Latin Māius (adjective and, short for Māius mēnsis  , noun), probably < the name of a deity cognate with the name of the goddess Māia   (see Maia n.) and with magnus   great (see magni- comb. form).
Derivatives of the classical Latin word include: Hellenistic Greek Μάϊος  ; Occitan mai  , Spanish mayo  , Portuguese maio  , Italian maggio  ; Middle Dutch meye  , mey   (Dutch mei  ), Middle Low German mey  , meye  , Old High German meio   (Middle High German meie  , German Mai  ), Old Swedish mai   (Swedish maj  ), Danish maj  .
 
Sense 3   is found in Anglo-Norman and regional French; sense 2b   is found in French from the 16th cent., though the sense ‘green branches’ is attested from the 12th cent.
 
In Old English and Middle English texts Latin Maius is often used for the month (in Old English sometimes alongside the vernacular names Þrīmeolce and Þrīmilcemōnað), e.g.:
OE   Menologium 79   Cymeð wlitig scriðan þrymlice [prob. read Þrymilce] on tun, þearfe bringeð Maius micle geond menigeo gehwær.
OE   Byrhtferð Enchiridion (Ashm.) (1995) ii. ii. 100   Nouember and December habbað fif and twentig ealdne monan,..and Aprelis and Maius eahta and twentig.
a1387   J. Trevisa tr. R. Higden Polychron. (St. John's Cambr.) (1865) I. 245   He ordeyned a monthe and cleped hym Maius [?a1475 Harl. Maij], þat is, þe monþe of þe grete men.
c1400  (▸1391)    G. Chaucer Treat. Astrolabe (Cambr. Dd.3.53) (1872) i. §10. 6   Ianuare, Februare, Marcius, Aprile, Mayus.
 
Forms ending in ii or ij may have been influenced by the genitive of the Latin etymon, with which they are homographic, and which frequently occurred in dates.
 1.

 a. The fifth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendar, containing 31 days and falling between April and June.

lOE   Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Laud) anno 1110   On þære fiftan nihte on Maies monðe.
lOE   Prognostics (Vesp.) in R. D.-N. Warner Early Eng. Homilies (1917) 91   On Mai, hit bodeð hunger gear.
c1275  (?a1200)    Laȝamon Brut (Calig.) (1978) l. 16074   Elleoue daȝes biforen Maiȝe he ferde of þisse liue.
c1300   St. Augustine (Laud) 83 in C. Horstmann Early S.-Eng. Legendary (1887) 26 (MED)   His day is toward þe ende of May.
a1425  (c1385)    G. Chaucer Troilus & Criseyde (1987) ii. 1098   I may naught slepe nevere a Mayes morwe.
a1449   J. Lydgate Minor Poems (1934) ii. 781   When the larke..Salueth the vprist of the sonne shene..in Apryl and in May.
c1450  (?a1400)    Wars Alexander (Ashm.) 3699   Þai made as mery melody & musik þai sanng As in þe moneths of Mai or mydsomere euyn.
a1513   R. Fabyan New Cronycles Eng. & Fraunce (1516) I. clxiii. f. lxxxxii   There was Heddys Armys, Leggys, and Trunkys of Dede mennys Bodyes lyinge as thycke as Flowres growe in tyme of may.
a1525  (c1448)    R. Holland Bk. Howlat l. 998 in W. A. Craigie Asloan MS (1925) II. 126   In mirthfull moneth of may.
1568   A. Scott Poems (1896) v. 51   In May gois dammosalis and dammis In gardyngis grene.
1598   R. Barnfield Ode in Encomion Lady Pecunia sig. E2v   As it fell vpon a Day, In the merrie Month of May.
1598   W. Shakespeare Love's Labour's Lost iv. iii. 100   Loue, whose Month is euer May .  View more context for this quotation
1645   J. Milton Sonnet i, in Poems 44   While the jolly hours lead on propitious May.
1659   J. Howell Prov. Eng. Toung 11/1 in Παροιμιογραϕια   As welcome as Flowers in May.
a1722   J. Toland Coll. Several Pieces (1726) I. 72   I..admire the address of the Druids, in fixing this ceremony..to the beginning of November, rather than to May or Midsummer.
1785   W. Cowper Task vi. 62   The season smiles,..And has the warmth of May.
1821   J. Galt Ann. Parish vi. 66   It is said, ‘Of the marriages in May, The bairns die of a decay’.
1844   J. E. De Kay Zool. N.-Y. ii. 297   The..Cut-water..reaches our coast from tropical America in May.
1888   C. E. L. Riddell Nun's Curse II. vii. 135   You'll grant me a seven years' lease come next May twelve-month.
1927   Smallholder 26 Mar. 105/2   The main-crop, deep-rooters should be sown at the end of May.
1985   R. Bly Loving Woman in Two Worlds (1987) iii. 77   In the month of May when all leaves open.

lOE—1985(Hide quotations)

 

 b. Chiefly poetic. With allusion to May's position at the start of summer (in the northern hemisphere), and to the vitality, optimism, and exuberance traditionally associated with it for this reason. Formerly esp. in (as) fresh as May .

c1375   G. Chaucer Monk's Tale 3310   A lemman hadde this noble champioun That highte Dianira, fressh as May.
c1387–95   G. Chaucer Canterbury Tales Prol. 92   He was as fresshe as is the monthe of May.
1508   W. Dunbar Goldyn Targe (Chepman & Myllar) in Poems (1998) I. 192   Surmounting ewiry tong terrestriall, Alls fer as Mayes morow dois mydnycht.
1600   W. Shakespeare Much Ado about Nothing i. i. 182   Theres her cosin..exceedes her as much in beautie, as the first of Maie dooth the last of December.  View more context for this quotation
a1616   W. Shakespeare As you like It (1623) iv. i. 140   Maides are May when they are maides, but the sky changes when they are wiues.  View more context for this quotation
1658   H. Plumptre Let. in 12th Rep. Royal Comm. Hist. MSS (1890) App. v. 6   Wishing that all your yeares yet to come..may partake more of Mayes then Julyes.
1748   T. Gray Ode in R. Dodsley Coll. Poems II. 267   We frolick, while 'tis May.
1752   S. Davies Solomon in Misc. Poems Divine Subjects iv. 12   My Mind enlighten'd with a heav'nly Ray, Was..Deep as the vast Abyss, and vigorous as May.
1833   H. Coleridge New-Year's Day in Poems (1851) I. 60   Kind hearts can make December blithe as May, And in each morrow find a New-Year's day.
1846   N. P. Willis Poems (ed. 6) 246   Thy picture, in my memory now, Is fair as morn, and fresh as May!
1889   D. Hannay Life F. Marryat 150   If he had not spent his summer while it was May—at least he had run through it far too soon.
1907   ‘J. Miller’ Light i. ii. 15   Such rich rose..As made gold poppies where she lay Turn envious, turn green as May!
1949   E. E. Cummings Puella Mea 20   My very frail lady drifting distinctly..with April feet like sudden flowers and all her body filled with May.

c1375—1949(Hide quotations)

 

 c. poetic. The month of May personified.

a1425  (c1385)    G. Chaucer Troilus & Criseyde (1987) ii. 50   In May, that moder is of monthes glade.
1508   W. Dunbar Goldyn Targe (Chepman & Myllar) in Poems (1998) I. 186   Thare saw I May, of myrthfull monethis quene.
1597   W. Shakespeare Richard II v. i. 79   She came adorned hither like sweete Maie .  View more context for this quotation
1645   J. Milton Song: On May Morning in Poems 27   Hail bounteous May that dost inspire Mirth and youth, and warm desire.
1826–34   W. Wordsworth To May i   Though many suns have risen and set Since thou, blithe May, wert born.
1914   Crisis June 79   Entranced by the magical minstrel June, May stands in her garden fair.

a1425—1914(Hide quotations)

 

 d. figurative. poetic. One's bloom or prime; the heyday of something.

a1586   Sir P. Sidney Astrophel & Stella (1591) 9   If now the May of my yeeres much decline.
1600   W. Shakespeare Much Ado about Nothing v. i. 76   Ile prooue it on his body if he dare, Dispight his..Maie of youth, and bloome of lustihood.  View more context for this quotation
1602   J. Marston Antonios Reuenge i. i. sig. A3   We both were riuals in our May of blood, Vnto Maria.
a1640   P. Massinger Guardian i. i. 23 in 3 New Playes (1655)    I am in the May of my abilities, And you in your December.
1847   Ld. Tennyson Princess ii. 46   Others lay about the lawns, Of the older sort, and murmur'd that their May Was passing.
1886   Ld. Tennyson Promise of May iii. 197   So lovely in the promise of her May.
a1907   M. E. Coleridge Maiden in Poems (1908) clxix. 164   By the way she came, that way she went... The May of life shall all be spent Ere she again come hither!

a1586—a1907(Hide quotations)

 
 2.

 a. A construction of flowers or young foliage assembled on or near May Day to mark the beginning of summer. Also (occasionally): a maypole. Now historical.Later examples of expressions such as to bring in (the) May may belong here or in sense 3.

1432–3   in R. Peter & O. B. Peter Hist. Launceston & Dunheved (1885) 124   [For expenses about] ‘le May’.
1515   in J. L. Glasscock Rec. St. Michael's, Bishop's Stortford (1882) 34   Item pd for brede and ale th same day that Sabysford may was whan they of Sabysford did come rydynd to the toune to sett ther may.
1582   C. Fetherston Dialogue agaynst Dauncing sig. D7v   Tenne maidens whiche went to set May, and nine of them came home with childe.
1700   J. Dryden Flower & Leaf in Wks. (1885) XI. 394   I..met the merry crew, who danced about the May.
1996   R. Hutton Stations of Sun xxiii. 239   At times garlands could take very striking local forms, such as the pyramid of green boughs..which appeared at Glatton..in 1854; in this, surely, there was an echo of the huge ‘Mays’ of late medieval urban parades.

1432—1996(Hide quotations)

 

 b. The festivities of May Day (see May Day n.1). Now rare except in Queen of the May n. at Phrases 2.

1515   in J. L. Glasscock Rec. St. Michael's, Bishop's Stortford (1882) 34   Item pd for brede and ale th same day that Sabysford may.
a1635   T. Randolph Amyntas Prol., in Poems (1638)    How shall we talke to Nymphs so trim and gay, That nere saw Lady yet but at a May?
1686   Loyal Garland (ed. 5) B 5   Cloris Queen of all the May.

1515—1686(Hide quotations)

 

 3. Now chiefly with lower-case initial. Hawthorn blossom; (occasionally) a hawthorn tree.The common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, now typically comes into flower around the middle of May in Britain, but before the revision of the calendar in 1752 its blooming probably coincided with the beginning of the month. Hawthorn is notably venerated in British folklore: for an extensive discussion of the superstitions attaching to the plant see R. Mabey Flora Britannica (1996).

c1450   C. d'Orleans Poems (1941) 58 (MED)   Awake..lete vs at wode to geder may in fere, To holde of oure oold custome the manere.
a1475  (?1445)    J. Lydgate Minor Poems (1911) i. 367 (MED)   Now, glorious seynt Iohn of Beuerlay..Gadre us floures of heuenly maye.
1548   Hall's Vnion: Henry VIII f. viiv   On May daye..hys grace..rose in the mornynge very early to fetche May or grene bows.
1600   T. Nashe Summers Last Will sig. B3   The Palme and May make countrey houses gay.
1604   E. Grimeston tr. J. de Acosta Nat. & Morall Hist. Indies v. xxviii. 413   In this moone and moneth, which is when they bring Maie from the fieldes into the house.
1635   T. Jackson Humiliation Sonne of God 214   By such a maner or trope of speech, as the English and French doe call the buds or flowers of Hawthorne May.
1640   J. Parkinson Theatrum Botanicum 1026   The Hawthorne is called..Hawthorne or Hedgethorne, Whitethorne and May or May-bush.
1784   S. Neville Diary 16 May (1950) xv. 319   The hedges full of sweet may.
1820   P. B. Shelley Question iii   The moonlight-coloured May.
1848   J. H. Newman Loss & Gain ii. 5   The laburnums are out, and the may.
1888   F. T. Elworthy W. Somerset Word-bk. (at cited word)   It is thought very unlucky, and a sure ‘sign of death’, if May is brought into the house.
1940   A. Mee Norfolk 99   Limes and pink mays grow round the clerestoried church.
1994   D. Healy Goat's Song xxviii. 347   She stopped the car, got out and lifted the warm body over a white hedge of late may.

c1450—1994(Hide quotations)

 
 4. Cambridge University.

 a. An examination held at the end of Easter term. Frequently in plural. Now historical.

1852   C. A. Bristed Five Years Eng. University (ed. 2) 63   The College Easter Term Examination, familiarly spoken of as ‘the May’.
1852   C. A. Bristed Five Years Eng. University (ed. 2) 64   The ‘May’ is one of the features which distinguishes Cambridge from Oxford; at the latter there are no public College examinations.
1886   R. Fry Let. 28 Nov. (1972) I. 111   My Mays depress me, so does my Tripos.
1913   Mrs. G. de Horne Vaizey College Girl xxvi. 357   With a second and a first record for Mays there was a possibility—of firsts in the final Tripos.
1933   M. Lowry Ultramarine iii. 125   I failed my first year examinations, verstehen Sie, what we call ‘Mays’.
1934   Granta 6 June 474/2   Mays and Triposes confront the candidate for the academic cursus honorum at yearly intervals.

1852—1934(Hide quotations)

 
1879   ‘J. Home’ Sketches Cambr. 53   And in the trials, in the Mays, From stroke to bow,..they keep the river head.
1901   Daily Chron. 6 May 8/3   The annual ‘Mays’—paradoxically held in June—are fixed for the 5th of the latter month and following days.
1934   Granta 6 June 469   These are the high, the happy days When dancers dance and music plays,..And Auntie comes to watch the Mays.

1879—1934(Hide quotations)

 

Phrases

 

 P1. In collocation with December or January, alluding to a romance or marriage between a young woman and an old man.

[c1395   G. Chaucer Merchant's Tale 1695   That she this mayden, which þat Mayus highte..Shal wedded be vnto this Ianuarie.]
c1395   G. Chaucer Merchant's Tale 1886   Thilke day That Ianuarie hath wedded fresshe May.
1581   T. Howell His Deuises sig. I.ij   In fayth doth frozen Ianus double face, Such fauour finde, to match with pleasant Maye.
1606   T. Dekker Seuen Deadly Sinnes London vii. sig. F4   You doe wrong to Time, inforcing May to embrace December.
1654   E. Gayton Pleasant Notes Don Quixot ii. iv. 50   When fifteen joines to Seventy, there's old doings (as they say), the Man and Wife fitting together like January and May day.
1734   S.-Carolina Gaz. 11 May 1/1   In this our Town I've heard some Youngster say, That cold December does make Love to May.
1891   R. Buchanan Coming Terror 267   When asthmatic January weds buxom May.
1954   D. S. Davis in Ellery Queen's Myst. Mag. June 38/2   He was seeking advice on his daughter's infatuation with a man three times her age..the May and December affairs are rare indeed.
1981   P. F. Boller Presidential Anecd. 97   When Tyler, a widower, married a woman thirty years his junior, the Whigs circulated jokes about the mating of January and May.

c1395—1981(Hide quotations)

 

 P2.   Queen of the May n. = May Queen n.; formerly also †Queen of May, †Lady of the May (cf. May-lady n.). Similarly   Lord (also King) of (the) May   n. = May-lord n. 1.

1506   in J. B. Paul Accts. Treasurer Scotl. (1901) III. 195   Item, to ane Quene of Maij at the Abbay ȝet, be the Kingis command xiiijs.
1557   H. Machyn Diary (1848) 137   The lord and the lade of the Maye.
1577   Gen. Assembly in F. J. Child Eng. & Sc. Pop. Ballads (1888) III. v. 45   Discharge playes of Robin Hood, King of May, and sick others, on the Sabboth day.
a1586   Peblis to Play in W. A. Craigie Maitland Folio MS (1919) I. 178   Sum said þat þai wer merkat folk Sum said the quene of may wes cumit.
1613   F. Beaumont Knight of Burning Pestle v. sig. K3   I..by all men chosen was Lord of the May.
1673   J. Dryden Marriage a-la-Mode ii. i. 28   Then I was made the Lady of the May.
1711   R. Steele Spectator No. 80. ⁋2   The Girls preceded their parents like Queens of May, in all the gaudy Colours imaginable, on every Sunday to Church.
1727   W. Somerville Yeoman of Kent 32   At Whitson-ales king of the May..He tript it on each holyday.
1812   M. M. Sherwood Susan Gray (new ed.) 80   Why, Susan, you look as handsome as the queen of May in that hat.
1832   Ld. Tennyson May Queen i, in Poems (new ed.) 90   For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother, I'm to be Queen o' the May.
1880   A. J. Munby Dorothy iii. 66   Cleanly and sweet as she was, fit to be Queen of the May.
1948   E. Crozier Albert Herring (libretto) ii. i   Has anyone heard of a King of the May?
1980   P. G. Winslow Counsellor Heart 8   What am I supposed to be?.. Queen of the May?

1506—1980(Hide quotations)

 
 

 P3.  [Compare Ovid Fasti 5. 489 ‘si te proverbia tangunt, mense malum Maio nubere volgus ait’.] Proverb. marry in May, rue for aye and variants.ne'er cast a clout till May be out: see clout n.1 4b.

[1675   W. Winstanley Poor Robin sig. B   The Proverb saies..Of all the Moneths 'tis worst to Wed in May.
1821   J. Galt Ann. Parish vi. 66   We were married on the 29th day of April..on account of the dread that we had of being married in May, for it is said, ‘Of the marriages in May, The bairns die of a decay.’]
1879   W. Henderson Notes Folk-lore Northern Counties (rev. ed.) i. 34   The ancient proverb still lives on the lips of the people of Scotland and the Borders—Marry in May, Rue for Aye.
1913   E. M. Wright Rustic Speech & Folk-lore xiii. 218   Marry in May, You'll rue it for aye, is a Devonshire saying.
1936   C. Sandburg People, Yes 123   Marry in May, repent always. May is the month to marry bad wives.
1981   Observer Mag. 28 June 27   On weddings and engagements we are told that May is an unlucky month for getting married, ‘Marry in May, rue for aye.’

1879—1981(Hide quotations)

 
 P4. Specific uses of particular dates in May.
 a.
 

  May (the) Fourth   n. (also 4 May, etc.) Chinese History (attributive) designating or relating to a demonstration held by students in Peking (Beijing) on 4 May 1919 to protest against the Chinese government's failure to oppose the decision by the Versailles Peace Committee to allocate Germany's former possessions in China to Japan; (also) designating the wider cultural and intellectual revolution in China for which this demonstration is generally regarded as having been a catalyst; esp. in May (the) Fourth Movement .

1930   J. Chi-Hung Lynn Polit. Parties in China vii. 105   The May 4th incident was only an upshot of the great popular movement, the influence of which is felt even to-day.
1938   Pacific Affairs 11 314   Because of the strong development of capitalism in China during the World War, the bourgeois May Fourth Movement was possible in 1919.
1949   Far Eastern Q. 8 154   The introduction of scientific methods of historical research, especially after the May 4th movement in 1919.
1989   J. Hunter Emergence Mod. Japan (1992) 54   The 1919 Versailles Conference decision to award Shandong to Japan sparked off the nationalist eruption of the 4 May Movement in Beijing.
1994   Pacific Affairs 67 444   Tu provides correctives to both the May 4th view of Confucianism as a purely secular humanism and the somewhat related Weberian misunderstanding of it as this-worldly accommodationism.

1930—1994(Hide quotations)

 
 b.
 

  May (the) Seventh   n. (attributive) designating any of various institutions in the People's Republic of China in which study is combined with agricultural or other physical labour, so that cadres may experience the lifestyle of a peasant.Such institutions were founded in accordance with Mao Zedong's directive of 7 May 1966 that called upon people of all trades and professions to study industry, agriculture, and military affairs.

1967   Peking Rev. 17 Nov. 9/2   It is proposed to transform Tongji University into the ‘May 7th’ Commune... The ‘May 7th’ Commune will abolish existing departments... The ‘May 7th’ Commune will set up political work departments.
1978   China Now July 7/3   The general call for study is combined with a directive to reopen the Party schools for studying Marxism-Leninism, to make sure the May 7th Cadre schools are run well and to study and summarise Party history.
1986   C. Dietrich People's China vi. 200   ‘May 7 Cadre Schools’ began to be established all over the country. These were special farms set up, manned, and run by cadres of all ranks, assigned in groups for six-months to three years.

1967—1986(Hide quotations)

 

Compounds

 C1.
 a. (In sense 1.)
 (a)
 

  May evening   n.

1794   in Catal. Prints: Polit. & Personal Satires (Brit. Mus.) (1942) VII. 93   May Evening Sports.
1836   C. Dickens Pickwick Papers (1837) v. 50   Although it was a May evening, their attachment to the wood fire appeared as cordial as if it were Christmas.
1988   M. Drabble Radiant Way 61   It was she herself that had seduced Cliff, in a field of cow parsley on a May evening.

1794—1988(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May-hope   n.

a1889   G. M. Hopkins Poems (1967) 38   May-hope of our darkened ways!

a1889—a1889(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May-mess   n.

1877   G. M. Hopkins Poems (1967) 67   Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!

1877—1877(Hide quotations)

 

  May month   n.

a1470   T. Malory Morte Darthur (Winch. Coll. 13) (1990) III. 1119   Lyke as May moneth flowryth and floryshyth in every mannes gardyne.
1600   S. Nicholson Acolastus his After-witte sig. B1v   In the May moneth of my blooming yeares.
1736   H. Fielding Tumble-down Dick Ded. sig. Aiiv   A play judiciously brought on by you in the May-Month.
1887   T. Hardy Woodlanders III. iv. 295   The time of year..was just that transient period in the May month when beech trees have suddenly unfolded large limp young leaves.
1982   in Dict. S. Afr. Eng. (1987) 227/2   I'm glad you came now. May month is always our most beautiful.

a1470—1982(Hide quotations)

 

  May moon   n.

1576   G. Gascoigne Steele Glas Ep. Ded. sig. A.ijv   In the Maymoone of my youth.
1812   T. Moore Young May Moon in Irish Melodies III. v. 18   The young May moon is beaming, love.
1948   W. C. Williams Paterson II. §iii.   Alone, watching the May moon above the Trees.

1576—1948(Hide quotations)

 

  May morn   n.

a1616   W. Shakespeare Henry V (1623) i. ii. 120   My thrice-puissant Liege Is in the very May-Morne of his Youth.  View more context for this quotation
1832–53   Whistle-Binkie 3rd Ser. (Sc. Songs) 73   Last Sunday, in your faither's dais, I saw thy bloomin' May-morn face.
1878   R. Browning Poets Croisic xv   On May-morns, that primeval rite Of temple-building..lingers.
1922   E. Blunden Shepherd 26   And petal-tambourines shall earn A largess this May morn.

a1616—1922(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May night   n.

1611   G. Chapman May-day iv. 65   That will be at the May night shew at Signior Honorios.
1873   R. Browning Red Cotton Night-cap Country ii. 71   Glisteningly beneath the May-night moon.
1990   R. Graham God's Dominion vii. 183   Siddhartha Gautama sat one May night beneath a peepul tree.

1611—1990(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May season   n.

▸ ?a1513   W. Dunbar Tua Mariit Wemen in Poems (1998) I. 41   Grein..as the gres that grew in May sessoun.
1901   G. Barlow To Women of Eng. 63   Sweetness of the bright May season.

?a1513—1901(Hide quotations)

 
 

May-sele   n. Obsolete

?c1450   in Anglia (1896) 18 317   Ȝif it be gaderid in may-sel.

?c1450—?c1450(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May-time   n.

a1375  (c1350)    William of Palerne (1867) 823 (MED)   Alle freliche foules..for merþe of þat may time þei made moche noyce.
1633   P. Fletcher Purple Island xii. lxxxii. 179   More fruitfull then the May-time Geminies.
1807   W. Wordsworth Poems I. 14   But all things else about her drawn From May-time and the chearful Dawn.
1930   T. S. Eliot Ash-Wednesday 14   The broadbacked figure..Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
1996   F. Chappell Farewell I'm bound to leave You (1997) 129   The illicit loving pair had kept their secret appointment and planned to meet again in the shining Maytime.

a1375—1996(Hide quotations)

 
 (b)
 

  May-born adj.

1773   R. Fergusson Poem to Memory J. Cunningham 5   The May-born Flourets of Spring.
1869   W. Davies Songs of Wayfarer No. 164   Clear memories and lofty hopes that bless, Like odours May-born breezes leave behind.

1773—1869(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May-glad adj.

1911   E. Pound Canzoni 4   No poppy in the May-glad mead.

1911—1911(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May-yeaned adj.

1884   Cent. Mag. Feb. 518   In June, when the May-yeaned lambs were skipping in the sunshine.

1884—1884(Hide quotations)

 
 b. (In sense 2b, esp. designating objects and events forming part of traditional May Day celebrations.)
 

May ale   n. Obsolete

1492–3   Rec. St. Michael's, Bishop's Stortford (Hertfordshire Archives: DP/21/5/1) f. 7   May Ales.
1497–8   in W. I. Haward & H. M. Duncan Village Life in 15th Cent. (1928) 67   In losse off evyll money taken at the may ale.
1516   in J. L. Glasscock Rec. St. Michael's, Bishop's Stortford (1882) 35   Item resseyvyd of the may ale above all charge ls.

1492—1516(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May feast   n.

1778   W. Hutchinson Anc. Customs 14, in View Northumberland II   The syllabub, prepared for the May feast.
1870   Appletons' Jrnl. 12 Mar. 297/2   It was an old custom in Northumberland to have a syllabub for the May Feast.

1778—1870(Hide quotations)

 

May fool   n. Obsolete rare

a1591   H. Smith Serm. (1594) 394   May-games, and May poales, and May fooles, and Morris-dancers are vanitie.

a1591—a1591(Hide quotations)

 
 

May gad   n. Obsolete (see gad n.1 9.)

1724   W. Stukeley Itinerarium Curiosum I. 29   Making a procession to this hill with may gads (as they call them) in their hands, this is a white willow wand the bark peel'd off, ty'd round with cowslips.
1848   E. Bulwer-Lytton Harold I. i. i. 4   Boys, with their May-gads (peeled willow wands twined with cowslips).

1724—1848(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May-garland   n.

1784   in Catal. Prints: Polit. & Personal Satires (Brit. Mus.) (1938) VI. 139 (caption)    The May garland or triumph without victory.
1822   W. Wordsworth Eccl. Sketches iii. xx. 100   Shepherds sate of yore and wove May-garlands.
1959   I. Opie & P. Opie Lore & Lang. Schoolchildren xii. 258   The traditional custom of shouldering little maypoles round the streets or visiting houses with may-garlands is still practised in some districts.

1784—1959(Hide quotations)

 

May-house   n. Obsolete rare

1824   M. R. Mitford Our Village I. 89   From the trunk of the chestnut the May-houses commence. They are covered alleys built of green boughs, decorated with garlands and great bunches of flowers..hanging down like chandeliers among the dancers.

1824—1824(Hide quotations)

 

  May-keeper   n. rare

1904   Edinb. Rev. Jan. 55   Other May-keepers whose symbols are now but relics.

1904—1904(Hide quotations)

 
 c. (In sense 3.)
 

  may-bloom   n.

1818   H. J. Todd Johnson's Dict. Eng. Lang.   May-bloom, the hawthorn.
1901   G. Barlow To Women of Eng. 104   When silvery may-bloom glistens Is there one whitethorn leaf Sun-kissed and glad which listens To the cold song of grief?

1818—1901(Hide quotations)

 
 

  may-bough   n.

1530   J. Palsgrave Lesclarcissement 666/1   In stede of a trapper he pricked his horse full of maye bowes.
1716   T. Purney Pastorals after Theocritus i. 26   This Morn sweet sate we 'neath this sweet May-bough.
1902   W. Canton Comrades 155   When may-boughs cream in curdling white, And maids envy the bloom o' the apple.

1530—1902(Hide quotations)

 

  may-branch   n.

1560   in J. T. B. Syme Sowerby's Eng. Bot. (1864) III. 240   Those boys who choose it may rise at four oclock to gather May branches.
1823   in W. Hone Every-day Bk. (1826) I. 565   On May morning..the girls look with some anxiety for their May-branch.

1560—1823(Hide quotations)

 
 

may-busket   n. Obsolete

1579   E. Spenser Shepheardes Cal. May 10   To gather may bus-kets and smelling brere.
1791   T. Warton in J. Milton Poems (ed. 2) 181   Spenser has anglicised the original French word bosquet, in May, v. 10 ‘To gather May buskets and smelling breere’. If busket be not there the French bouquet, now become English.

1579—1791(Hide quotations)

 
 

  may-leaf   n.

1844   E. B. Barrett Poems II. 109   There fell Two white may-leaves..From a blossom.
1891   F. Tennyson Daphne 326   Thro' smooth walks Under the rustling May-leaves.

1844—1891(Hide quotations)

 
 d.

  May ball   n. a ball or similar entertainment held in May or (at the University of Cambridge) during May Week.

1839   Southern Literary Messenger June 411/2   In the afternoon the little corpse was brought in, dressed up more like a living subject for a May ball, than a tenant for the grave.
1955   Queen 29 June 21/2 (caption)    May Ball. The First and Third Trinity's Boat Club Ball held in Trinity College, Cambridge.
1988   M. Drabble Radiant Way (BNC) 74   Alix herself had been to a May Ball or two in Cambridge, in her dancing days.

1839—1988(Hide quotations)

 

  May-basket   n. U.S. a small basket, traditionally filled with flowers, confectionery, etc., and hung or left at the door of a loved one or friend on May Day as a token of affection.

1842   S. Rodman Diary (1927) 235   The little girls for the last two days have had the pleasant excitement attending the giving and receiving May baskets of flowers.
1918   W. Cather My Ántonia ii. xiii. 260   I remember I took a melancholy pleasure in hanging a May-basket for Nina Harling that spring.
1977   T. Tudor Time to Keep 24   On May Day the children left May baskets at our neighbors' doors.

1842—1977(Hide quotations)

 

May bishop   n. depreciative Obsolete rare a titular bishop.

1565   J. Jewel Def. Apol. Churche Eng. (1611) 585   Your late Chapter of Trident, with your worthie number of forty Prelates, whereof certaine were onlie May Bishops, otherwise by you called Nullatenses.

1565—1565(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May bowl   n.  [after German Maibowle] = Maitrank n.

1951   Good Housek. Home Encycl. 549/1   May Bowl, a type of white wine cup, of German origin, also called May drink and May wine.
1965   O. A. Mendelsohn Dict. Drink 215   Maybowl, a festive compound of sweetened and flavoured wine, popular with continental students.

1951—1965(Hide quotations)

 

  May drink   n.  [after German Maitrank Maitrank n.] = Maitrank n.

1851   H. W. Longfellow Golden Legend i. 37   Fill me a goblet of May-drink, As aromatic as the May From which it steals the breath away.
1855   E. Acton Mod. Cookery (rev. ed.) xxxii. 620   Mai Trank (May-Drink). (German.) Put into a large deep jug one pint of light white wine to two of red,..then throw in some..woodruff.
1991   She May 141/2   Mrs Beeton's May Drink is a refreshing drink for grown-ups with herb gardens—or a good local herb shop.

1851—1991(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May Eve   n. the day or evening before May Day.

1603   G. Owen Descr. Penbrokshire (1892) 191   At vsuall feastes that ys the one on our ladie Eve in March, the other at Maye Eve.
1649   Ld. Herbert Life Henry VIII 68   Two Apprentices playing onely at Buckerels in the street late on May-eve.
a1722   J. Toland Coll. Several Pieces (1726) I. 67   On May-eve the Druids made prodigious fires on those Carns.
1825   T. C. Croker Fairy Legends & Trad. S. Ireland I. 307   May-eve is considered a time of peculiar danger.
1898   Longman's Mag. Apr. 547   A bunch of birch twigs..are put up on May Eve ‘to keep off the witches’.
1996   R. Mabey Flora Britannica 40/2   In the Isle of Man..flowers were strewn on doorsteps on old May Eve.

1603—1996(Hide quotations)

 

  May examination   n. a university examination taken in May; spec. = sense 4a   (now historical).

1848   Southern Literary Messenger Aug. 481/2   All things promised well for my graduating creditably at the approaching May examination.
1859   F. W. Farrar Julian Home xv. 186   My getting a first class in the May examination.

1848—1859(Hide quotations)

 

  May hill   n.  [possibly with allusion to May Hill as a local name, widespread in England] now poetic and British regional the month of May regarded as a potential time of crisis for those in ill health; esp. in to have climbed May hill .

1619   J. Chamberlain Let. 2 Jan. (1939) II. 197   We cannot be out of feare till we see her past the top of May-hill.
a1661   T. Fuller Worthies (1662) Derb. 230   Whereas, in our remembrance, Ale went out when Swallows came in..it now hopeth (having climed up May Hill) to continue its course all the year.
1887   W. D. Parish & W. F. Shaw Dict. Kentish Dial. 99   ‘I don't think he'll ever get up May hill,’ i.e., I don't think he will live through the month of May.
1917   E. W. Wilcox Over May Hill in Coll. Poems I. 311   Day by day nearing and nearing..Cometh the shape and the shadow I'm fearing, ‘Over the May hill’ is waiting your tomb.

1619—1917(Hide quotations)

 

May King   n. now historical Obsolete = King of the May n. at Phrases 2.

1519   W. Horman Vulgaria xxxii. f. 279v   It is the custome, that euery yere, we shal haue a may kynge.
1646   J. Gregory Notes & Observ. x. 47   To bear the Alytarcha's part and be a May-King, or Mock-Iupiter in these Revels.
1948   E. Crozier Albert Herring (libretto) ii. i   May King! That'll teach the girls a lesson!

1519—1948(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May kitten   n. a kitten born in May, regarded as being sickly or unlucky; also in extended use.

1690   J. Dryden Amphitryon iii. 33   Blear-ey'd, like a May-Kitten.
1853   Notes & Queries 12 Feb. 152/2   You should drown a May-kitten. It's unlucky to keep it.
1957   Folk-lore Sept. 413   May-born babies, like May kittens, are said to be weakly and unlikely to thrive.
1986   in I. Opie & M. Tatem Dict. Superstitions (1989) 241   [South Shields, Co. Durham] I used to be quite upset as a child when people said to me, when they heard that my birthday was in May, ‘Oh, you're a May kitten—you should have been drowned!’

1690—1986(Hide quotations)

 

  May long   n. Canadian colloquial the long weekend preceding and including Victoria Day, a public holiday observed in Canada on the penultimate Monday in May; cf. May two-four n.  [Shortened < May long weekend < May n.2   + long weekend n. at long adj.1 and n.1 Compounds 4a.]

1999   alt.drunken.bastards 21 May (Usenet newsgroup, accessed 17 April 2020)    As for ‘Victoria Day’, in this part o' Canada, we simply call it ‘The May Long’. The word ‘Weekend’ has even been dropped.
2019   @andieshaw 21 May in twitter.com (accessed 24 Mar. 2020)    Even though I worked for 2 out of the 3 days, the weather was perfect for May long.

1999—2019(Hide quotations)

 

May Marian   n.  [probably alteration of Maid Marian n. by association with May game n.; perhaps compare may n.3] Obsolete = Maid Marian n. a.

1582   C. Fetherston Dialogue agaynst Dauncing sig. D7   In your maygames..you doe vse to attyre men in womans apparrell, whom you doe most commenly call maymarrions.

1582—1582(Hide quotations)

 

  May meeting   n. now historical each of a succession of annual meetings of various religious and philanthropic societies formerly held during the month of May in Exeter Hall, London, and at other venues.

1852   G. A. Sala in Househ. Words 19 June 312/1   May-meetings of bees, humming and buzzing.
1874   H. W. Longfellow Tales Wayside Inn (compl. ed.) 247   Dost thou remember, Hannah, the great May-Meeting in London, When I was still a child, how we sat in the silent assembly, Waiting upon the Lord in patient and passive submission?
1895   Dict. National Biogr. XLII. 228/2   She visited London every year for the May meetings.

1852—1895(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May morning   n. a morning in May; spec. the morning of May Day.

c1400  (a1376)    W. Langland Piers Plowman (Trin. Cambr. R.3.14) (1960) A. Prol. 5   On a may morwenyng vpon maluerne hilles.
1531   in D. Knowles Saints & Scholars (1962) xx. 157   Rewards to them that singeth on maye mornyng men and women at grymley..3s.
a1540  (c1460)    G. Hay tr. Bk. King Alexander 87   Traist scho till him maid To mete hir airly in ane May morning.
1567   Compend. Bk. Godly Songs (1897) 137   In till ane myrthfull Maij morning.
a1616   W. Shakespeare Twelfth Night (1623) iii. iv. 140   More matter for a May morning .  View more context for this quotation
1812   W. Tennant Anster Fair ii. xxi. 34   Lasses..Gay as May-morning, tidy, gim, and clean.
1925   E. Blunden Eng. Poems 88   And touch them into truth again May-morning bright.
1977   R. Dahl Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar 104   The lake was beautiful on this golden May morning.

c1400—1977(Hide quotations)

 

  May races   n. (at Cambridge University) intercollegiate rowing races held in the Easter term.

1868   G. L. Tottenham Charlie Villars at Cambr. II. xxix. 249   Many men have loitered about, and bathed, or strolled,..or played tennis, and the interest of the University has been carried nearly to the end of the May races.
1893   in Cambr. Univ. Almanack (1894) 209   During the Lent or May Races.
1971   Amer. Math. Monthly 78 236   As soon as the last papers were handed in, [we] rushed from the hall and walked as fast as we knew how the three miles down to the river where the first of the May races were due to begin.
2000   J. Durack et al. Bumps Introd. 4   The present system was adopted in 1887 when the Lent and May races became entirely distinct, each being raced over four days.

1868—2000(Hide quotations)

 

May-roll   v. Obsolete rare (transitive) to roll (a person) in the grass as a game in May-time.

1656   R. Fletcher Poems in Ex Otio Negotium 210   The game at best, the girls May rould must bee.

1656—1656(Hide quotations)

 
 

May skin   n. Obsolete (perhaps) the skin of a lamb or sheep slaughtered in May.

1497   A. Halyburton Ledger (1867) 46   Item..a sek off May skynis contenand 300.
1534–5   in J. T. Fowler Extracts Acct. Rolls Abbey of Durham (1898) I. 109   Pro xj may skynnes.
1676   Kirkcudbright Town Council Rec. 12 Jan. in Dict. Older Sc. Tongue (at cited word)   For fyve may skins.

1497—1676(Hide quotations)

 

  May term   n. (at Cambridge University) the term after Easter; the Easter term.

1889   Granta 24 May 2/1   A mother..is gratefully received at Cambridge in the May term.
1905   Cambr. Rev. 4 May 281/1   The May term is seldom a good time for serious concerts.
1954   Mind 63 2   Ramsey states that he had been in close touch with Wittgenstein's work..during the Lent and May terms of 1929.

1889—1954(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May tree   n.  (a) a maypole (obsolete);  (b) a hawthorn.

1583   Minute Bk. Dedham Classis 6 May in R. G. Usher Presbyterian Movement Reign of Q. Elizabeth (1905) 29   Mr Lewis and Mr Dowe were appointed to deale wth Mr James to staie the playes of Maietree.
1841   T. Moore Poet. Wks. V. 101   Sweet as a May tree's scented air.
1984   J. Frame Angel at my Table (1987) vi. 52   Facing an eastern hill, with the north boundary of hawthorn hedge, may trees, willow trees, [the house] had only brief sun in the morning.

1583—1984(Hide quotations)

 

  May two-four   n. Canadian colloquial the long weekend preceding and including Victoria Day, a public holiday observed in Canada on the penultimate Monday in May; also more fully May two-four weekend; cf. May long n.  [Punningly < May n.2 + two-four n. at two adj., n., and adv. Additions, to suggest that beer is heavily consumed on this public holiday, which originally fell on May 24, the birthday of Queen Victoria (compare Victoria Day n. at Victoria n.2 Compounds 1).]

1991   Kitchener-Waterloo (Ont.) Rec. 21 May 1/5   The May ‘two-four weekend’, named after the traditional camper's case of 24 beer, lived up to its name this year in cottage country.
2019   @lexmark66 18 May in twitter.com (accessed 22 Apr. 2020)    Happy May two four! Have a great weekend.

1991—2019(Hide quotations)

 

  May Week   n. (at Cambridge University) the week in late May or early June in which the May races are held.

1895   Cassell's Family Mag. June 518   So many visitors are attracted to Cambridge for the ‘May week’.
1983   M. Cox M. R. James vi. 64   The succeeding summer term brought Monty's first May Week at Cambridge.

1895—1983(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May wine   n.  [after German Maiwein] = Maitrank n.

1890   E. Field Little Bk. Western Verse 140   I've pipes of Malmsey, May-wine, sack, metheglon, mead, and sherry.
1967   A. Lichine Encycl. Wines & Spirits 346/2   May wine is served chilled and ladled from a bowl, usually with strawberries or other fruit floating in it.
1989   L. Deighton Spy Line vi. 79   Come straight back. No sightseeing tours on the blue Danube, or tasting the May wine at the heuriger houses in Grinzing.

1890—1989(Hide quotations)

 

May wool   n. Obsolete rare (probably) wool taken from a sheep in May.

1720   J. Strype Stow's Surv. of London (rev. ed.) II. v. xv. 238/2   Fallen May-Wool, rotten and other ill Wool.

1720—1720(Hide quotations)

 
 C2. In the names of plants and fruits.
 

  May-bean   n. an early-ripening variety of broad bean.

1802   Eng. Encycl. IV. 473/1   The May-beans are a larger sort of ticks, and somewhat earlier ripe.

1802—1802(Hide quotations)

 

  May-blob   n.  [compare mareblob n., moll-blob n.] chiefly British regional the marsh marigold, Caltha palustris; (also) any of several other spring-flowering plants.

1863   Phytologist New Ser. 6 416   The Caltha palustris is called ‘May~blobs’ by the children who gather the flower in the meadows near Warwick; they also call the Wood Anemone (A. nemorosa) ‘Granny's Nightcap’.
1881   S. Evans Evans's Leicestershire Words (new ed.) 192   May-blob, the marsh-marigold.
1903   Eng. Dial. Dict. IV. 62/2   May-blob..(b) the cuckoo-flower, Cardamine pratensis; (c) the globe-flower, Trollius europaeus; (d) the celery-leaved crowfoot, Ranunculus sceleratus.
1908   Pacific Monthly 20 94/2   Could they or their children after them pick out a May-blob from a May-pop?
1916   D. H. Lawrence Amores 38   I can smell the gorgeous bog-end, in its breathless Dazzle of may-blobs.
1960   S. Ary & M. Gregory Oxf. Bk. Wild Flowers 4/2   Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)... The plant has many other names such as Kingcup and May Blobs.

1863—1960(Hide quotations)

 

  May-cherry   n.  (a) a small, early kind of cherry;  (b) U.S. any of various shrubs of the genus Amelanchier (family Rosaceae); cf. Juneberry n. at June n. Compounds 2.

1629   J. Parkinson Paradisi in Sole iii. xii. 571   The May Cherrie in a standard beareth ripe fruite later then planted against a wall.
1664   J. Evelyn Kalendarium Hortense 66 in Sylva   The May-Cherry.
1713   J. Addison in Guardian 2 July 2/1   To Zelinda two Sticks of May Cherries.
1718   J. Laurence Fruit-garden Kal. 78   The little early May-Cherry is indeed worth nothing.
1832   L. Hunt Sir Ralph Esher I. xi. 261   The finest apples and pears, strawberries, and May-cherries.
1884   C. S. Sargent Rep. Forests N. Amer. (10th Census IX) 84   Amelanchier Canadensis... May Cherry.
1901   A. Lounsberry Southern Wild Flowers & Trees 249   A. Canadensis... May-cherry... Those that find it eat it as regularly as they would cherries.
1952   R. L. Taylor Plants Colonial Days 75   Common names are Juneberry, shadblow, and May cherry.

1629—1952(Hide quotations)

 
 

May-fern   n. Obsolete a kind of fern, probably moonwort Botrychium lunaria; cf. May grapes n.

1658   tr. S. de Cyrano de Bergerac Satyrical Characters xii. 41   A girdle of May~fearne [Fr. fougere de May] woven in tresses.
1816   W. Scott Antiquary II. viii. 226   You have used neither charm,..magic mirror, nor geomantic figure. Where be..your May-fearn, your vervain?

1658—1816(Hide quotations)

 

  May gowan   n. Scottish rare the common daisy, Bellis perennis.

1842   Hist. Berwickshire Naturalists' Club 2 19 (note)    Ye'll get round again, if ye had your fit (foot) on the May gowan.

1842—1842(Hide quotations)

 

May grapes   n. Obsolete rare common moonwort, Botrychium lunaria.

1548   W. Turner Names of Herbes sig. H.iij   Lunaria minor, which may be called in englishe litle Lunary or Maye Grapes, the duch cal this herbe..meydruuen.

1548—1548(Hide quotations)

 
 

  May grass   n. a grass which flowers or is in its prime in May; (also) a West Indian grass (not identified).

1830   J. D. Maycock Flora Barbadensis 61   Broad-leaved Panic Grass. Miller. May Grass.
1874   Ladies' Repository May 390   The slender May-grass holds conversation with the orchard-grass.
1999   Church Times 4 June 32/5   We wander to Walberswick churchyard to find a friend's dust among the May grasses and bull-daisies.

1830—1999(Hide quotations)

 

  May-haw   n. a hawthorn of southern North America, Crataegus aestivalis; the edible fruit of this tree; (also) the related C. opaca or its fruit.

1840   J. Torrey & A. Gray Flora N. Amer. I. iii. 468   C. æstivalis... The fruit..is much esteemed for making tarts, jellies, &c.—May Haw. Apple-Haw.
1868   Amer. Naturalist 2 468   They [sc. deer] visit the ponds in which the May~haw grows, the fruit of which is juicy with the flavor of the apple.
1938   M. K. Rawlings Yearling xi. 112   He concentrated on light bread and mayhaw jelly.
1960   R. A. Vines Trees, Shrubs, & Woody Vines Southwest 338   May Hawthorn... This [sc.Crataegus opaca] is the famous May Haw of the South, from which preserves are made.
1990   M. L. Hall Apple-Green Triumph 6   I make fig and mayhaw preserves and green tomato pickles.

1840—1990(Hide quotations)

 

  May lily   n.  (a) lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis (now rare);  (b) a Eurasian woodland plant, Maianthemum bifolium (family Convallariaceae), related to and resembling lily of the valley.

1548   W. Turner Names of Herbes sig. C.viij   The Poticaries in Germany do name it Lilium conuallium, it maye be called in englishe May Lilies.
1597   J. Gerard Herball ii. 331   Of Lilly in the valley, or May Lillie.
1760   J. Lee Introd. Bot. App. 319   May Lily, Convallaria.
1832   W. D. Williamson Hist. Maine I. 125   [We have] two varieties of meadow-lilies,..May-lily, or ‘lily of the valley’; and nodding-lily.
1945   R. S. R. Fitter London's Nat. Hist. ix. 147   The most famous of all the plants of Hampstead Heath, the may-lily (Maianthemum bifolium)..became extinct, allegedly owing to careless path-making.
1971   Watsonia 8 295   It is strange that such a conspicuous plant as the May Lily was not recorded for Norfolk until 1955.

1548—1971(Hide quotations)

 

  May rose   n.  (a) a rose flowering in May;  (b) the guelder rose, Viburnum opulus (obsolete).

1753   Chambers's Cycl. Suppl. at Rose   The small red rose, commonly called the May rose.
1812   M. M. Sherwood Susan Gray (new ed.) 128   In her hand she had a bunch of May-roses.
1908   M. J. Cawein Poems II. 386   With your eyes of April blue, And your mouth Like a May-rose, fresh with dew.

1753—1908(Hide quotations)

 

  Maythorn   n. a hawthorn.  [Earlier currency may be implied by place-name evidence, as e.g. le Mathorne  , West Yorkshire (1564; now Maythorn  ), May Thorn Bush   (field name), Ketton, Rutland (1638, now lost), although it has alternatively been suggested that the former name may rather show maythe n.   (compare δ forms at that entry).]

1844   E. B. Browning Vision of Poets Concl. 105   I receive The maythorn, and its scent outgive!
1882   C. F. Keary Outl. Primitive Belief 107   Even the maythorn is to be met with.

1844—1882(Hide quotations)

 

  Maywort   n. rare crosswort, Cruciata laevipes.

1866   J. Lindley & T. Moore Treasury Bot. II. 725/2   Maywort, Galium cruciatum.

1866—1866(Hide quotations)

 
 C3. In the names of animals.
 

May-bee   n. Obsolete  (a) the cockchafer, Melolontha melolontha;  (b) North American a May beetle of the genus Phyllophaga.

c1820   M. M. Sherwood May-bee 13   William had caught another may-bee, or cockchafer, or humbuzz (for so that insect is called in different places).
1880   M. A. Courtney W. Cornwall Words in M. A. Courtney & T. Q. Couch Gloss. Words Cornwall 40/2   Oak-web, a May-bee; the cock-chafer.
1899   Mem. Amer. Folk-lore Soc. 7 63   Horn-bugs, May-bees, May-flies, [etc.].

c1820—1899(Hide quotations)

 

  May-beetle   n. = May-bug n.   (in all senses).

1720   E. Albin Nat. Hist. Eng. Insects 60   In the middle of May came forth a brown Beetle called the Chafer, Oak Web, or May Beetle.
1842   T. W. Harris Treat. Insects Injurious to Vegetation (1862) 31   The best time..for shaking the trees on which the May-beetles are lodged, is in the morning.
1860   J. Curtis Farm Insects Index   May-bug or beetleAnisoplia horticola.
1922   People's Home Jrnl. July 38/3   May beetles, click beetles and other harmful beetles are a joy to him.
1973   M. R. Crowell Greener Pastures 200   At the bird bath I find a June bug—the early brown kind known as a May beetle.

1720—1973(Hide quotations)

 

  May-bird   n.  (a) U.S. the dickcissel, Spiza americana (obsolete);  (b) U.S. the bobolink, Dolichonyx oryzivorus;  (c) the whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus;  (d) U.S. the knot, Calidris canutus.

1791   W. Bartram Trav. N. & S. Carolina 291   Calandra pratensis, the May bird.
1823   Let. 6 July in J. W. Allston S. Carolina Rice Plantation (1945) 61   The field on the main next to Coachmans was ruined by the may-birds.
1838   J. J. Audubon Ornithol. Biogr. IV. 132   In that country [sc. South Carolina] it is called the ‘May Bird’, which, however, is a name also given to the Rice Bird.
1864   Jrnl. Royal Inst. Cornwall Mar. 18   May-bird, the whimbrel.
a1908   H. C. Hart MS Coll. Ulster Words in M. Traynor Eng. Dial. Donegal (1953) 181   May-bird, the whimbrel.
1917   T. G. Pearson Birds Amer. I. 231/1   Knot. Tringa canutus... [Also called] May-bird.
1940   E. M. Coulter Thomas Spalding of Sapelo 77   Winged destroyers whirled over the fields bent on destruction. These were the ricebirds, sometimes called May birds.
1950   A. W. Boyd Coward's Birds Brit. Isles (rev. ed.) 2nd Ser. 162   ‘May-bird’ is one of its [sc. the Whimbrel's] popular names, for its arrival is expected in this month.

1791—1950(Hide quotations)

 

May-chafer   n.  [perhaps after German Maikäfer (formerly also Maienkäfer)] Obsolete the cockchafer, Melolontha melolontha, or the rose chafer, Cetonia aurata; in quot. 1827 figurative.

1766   M. Harris Aurelian 37   The Rose May-Chaffer.
1827   T. Carlyle tr. J. P. F. Richter in German Romance III. 132   Your idle May-chafers and Court-celestials.

1766—1827(Hide quotations)

 

May-chick   n. Obsolete rare = May-bird n. (c).

1577   Exp. Entert. Gorhambury in J. Nichols Progresses Queen Elizabeth (1823) II. 57   Quails..Maychicks..Malards.

1577—1577(Hide quotations)

 
 

May-chit   n. Obsolete the meadow pipit, Anthus pratensis (cf. chit n.4).

1610   W. Folkingham Feudigraphia iv. iii. 83   May-Chit, Spawe, Churre, Peeper.
c1668   Sir T. Browne Wks. (1852) III. 507   The..May chit is a little dark grey bird.

1610—c1668(Hide quotations)

 

May curlew   n. Obsolete rare = May-bird n. (c).

1885   C. Swainson Provinc. Names Brit. Birds 200   Whimbrel... May curlew..(Ireland).

1885—1885(Hide quotations)

 

  May fish   n.  (a) the twaite shad, Alosa fallax (obsolete);  (b) U.S. the striped killifish, Fundulus majalis.

1836   W. Yarrell Hist. Brit. Fishes II. 133   The Twaite Shad..in consequence of the time of its annual visit to some of the rivers of the European Continent is called the May-fish.
1879   G. B. Goode Catal. Coll. Animal Resources & Fisheries U.S.: Internat. Exhib. 1876 (Bull. U.S. National Mus. No. 14) 56   May-fish. Brackish waters; Cape Ann to Cape Hatteras.
1896   D. S. Jordan & B. W. Evermann Fishes N. & Middle Amer. (Bull. U.S. National Mus. No. 47) i. 639   Killifish; Mayfish; Rockfish.
1903   T. H. Bean Fishes N.Y. 309   The striped killifish, [is] also known as the..mayfish.
1991   Common & Sci. Names Fishes U.S. & Canada (Amer. Fisheries Soc. Special Publ. No. 20) (ed. 5) 149   Mayfish, see striped killifish.

1836—1991(Hide quotations)

 

May-fowl   n. Obsolete = May-bird n. (c).

1852   W. Macgillivray Hist. Brit. Birds IV. 253   [Syn.] Whimbrel, Little Curlew..Mayfowl.
1885   C. Swainson Provinc. Names Brit. Birds 200   Because they appear in the month of May..they [sc. whimbrels] have received the names of..May fowl (Ireland).

1852—1885(Hide quotations)

 

May jack   n. Obsolete rare = May-bird n. (c).

1880   W. H. Patterson Gloss. Words Antrim & Down 67   May jack, the whimbrel.

1880—1880(Hide quotations)

 

May parr   n. Obsolete rare a young salmon parr which appears in May.

1841   Penny Cycl. XX. 364/1   The smaller summer parrs (called, in Dumfriesshire, May parrs).

1841—1841(Hide quotations)

 

May peal   n. Obsolete rare = May parr n.

1861   Act 24 & 25 Victoria c. 109 §4   All migratory fish of the genus salmon, whether known by the names..mort, peal, herring peal, may peal, pugg peal, harvest cock,..or by any other local name.

1861—1861(Hide quotations)

 

May skate   n. Obsolete the long-nosed skate, Raja oxyrhynchus (cf. mavis skate n.).

1811   P. Neill in Mem. Wernerian Nat. Hist. Soc. 1 553   May-skate, or Mavis-skate.
1828   J. Fleming Hist. Brit. Animals 171   Raia oxyrinchus. Sharp-nosed Ray... White Skate, Friar Skate, May Skate.

1811—1828(Hide quotations)

 

  May sucker   n. U.S. the harelip sucker, Lagochila lacera.

1878   Bull. U.S. National Mus. No. 12. 68   We have lately received a fine specimen taken in the Scioto River, Ohio,..where it is well known to the fishermen under the name of ‘May Sucker’.
1884   D. S. Jordan in G. B. Goode et al. Fisheries U.S.: Sect. I 614   The ‘Rabbit-mouth’, ‘Hare-lip’,..or ‘May Sucker’ is found in abundance in many rivers of Tennessee and..Ohio.

1878—1884(Hide quotations)

 

May-worm   n. Obsolete an oil beetle.

1658   J. Rowland tr. T. Moffett Theater of Insects in Topsell's Hist. Four-footed Beasts (rev. ed.) 1017   They hang the May-worm (for so he cals the Oyl-beetle) about the neck with a thred, especially in the moneth of May.
1778   Farmer's Mag. Feb. 61   The May-Worm is an insect which Linnæus classes with the coleopteres.

1658—1778(Hide quotations)

 

Derivatives

 
 

May-like adj. and adv. Obsolete  (a) adj. characteristic or reminiscent of May;  (b) adv. with the freshness of May.

1589   E. Hayes in R. Hakluyt Princ. Navigations iii. 684   Moris dancers, Hobby horsse, and Maylike conceits.
1592   T. Lodge Euphues Shadow (1882) 16   When..I..May-like young, of pleasure gan to taste.

1589—1592(Hide quotations)