General English


  • noun a stem of large grasses such as the sugar cane and of other plants such as blackberries and raspberries


  • feminine A female duck


  • verb to beat up, assault. A working-class brawlers’ and prisoners’ term. It is probably a back-formation from the more widespread colloquialism a ‘caning’, meaning a trouncing or defeat.
  • verb to devour or consume. A vogue term from the language of adolescents since the later 1990s, it is an extension of the colloquial sense of ‘cane’ as meaning to punish or subject to heavy use. Among students it typically applies to excessive or spectacular use of cocaine, cigarettes, etc.
  • verb to cadge, borrow. A vogue term among British adolescents since the later 1990s, this is an extension of the preceding sense of the word.


  • a mature shoot of a vine. Mature shoots are brown, new shoots are green.

Origin & History of “cane”

Cane is a word of ancient ancestry. It can be traced back to Sumerian gin ‘reed’, and has come down to us via Assyrian kanū and Greek kánnā (a derivative of which, kánastron ‘wicker basket’, was the ultimate source of English canister (17th c.)). Latin borrowed the word as canna, and broadened its meaning out from ‘reed, cane’ to ‘pipe’, which is the basis of English cannal, channel, cannon, and canyon. From Latin came Old French cane, source of the English word.