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(science and technology)
Relating to the simplest or most significant form of a general function, equation, statement, rule, or expression.


(Historically, "according to religious law")

1. <mathematics> A standard way of writing a formula. 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. Things in canonical form are easier to compare.

2. <jargon> The usual or standard state or manner of something. The term acquired this meaning 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.

This word has an interesting history. 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" 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-technical 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 usages relating to religious law derive from this use of the Latin "canon". It may also be related to arabic "qanun" (law).

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 standard or authoritative method. The term comes from "canon," which is the law or rules of the church. See canonical name and canonical synthesis.
References in periodicals archive ?
Such an approach to the political and social problems of England in 1660 does not seem consonant with Cable's claims for a free-thinking, iconoclastic Milton or a Milton who ever seeks to liberate us from images that have become canonic and binding.
Operas also receive a distinctive marking, but Bulow's preference for what are (now) canonic works -- Fromenthal Halevy and Luigi Cherubini motwithstanding -- make such designation unnecessary.
135 Cesar Monasterio (Arg) 68 67; 136 Ricardo Gonzalez (Arg) 70 66,Emanuele Canonic a (Ita) 67 69, Raul Ballesteros (Spa) 68 68; 137 Matthew Blackey 69 68; 138 Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 71 67,Kenneth Ferrie 70 68,Stephen Gallacher 70 68,Alan McLean 69 69,Simon Khan 69 69; 139 Ivo Giner (Spa) 67 72, Nick Dougherty 68 71,Martin Erlandsson (Swe) 69 70,Jamie Spence 69 70,Roger Chapman 69 70, Mattias Nilsson (Swe) 70 69.
Though the agreeable sweep of canonic moves and the pleasing tracery of interlinked groupings help give the ballet eye-filling scale, the isolated, would-be arresting segments for the leading dancers (Whelan with Neal; H066e with Margaret Tracey) fail to establish much theatrical drama.
Each of its three movements is canonic, evoking the baroque, but the music is decidedly neoromantic, and Heckman joins Large in applying the Italian style to this late work from the Italian-born American composer.
Leading collated:135Cesar Monasterio (Arg) 68 67; 136 Ricardo Gonzalez (Arg) 70 66, Emanuele Canonic a (Ita) 67 69,Raul Ballesteros (Spa) 68 68; 137 Matthew Blackey 69 68; 138 Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 71 67, Kenneth Ferrie 70 68.
The company, in neat lines, adhered to canonic progressions of acrobatic feats, overlooking the vibrant nuances of the music.
Collated scores after the first round of the Seville Open at Real Club de Golf de Sevilla, Seville,Spain (Gbr and Irl unless stated,par 72): (x)denotes amateurs 65 Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel); 66 Gregory Havret (Fra); 67 Ivo Giner (Spa),Jean- Franco is Remesy (Fra), Emanuele Canonic a (Ita),Garry Houston; 68 Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa),Gary Evans,David Lynn, Johan Kok (Rsa),Gabriel Canizares (Spa),Nick Dougherty,Steven O'Hara,Cesar Monasterio (Arg), Raul Ballesteros (Spa),Wayne Westner (Rsa).
Waves of dancers, surging in canonic falls, reflect Limon's knack for moving large groups effectively--a forte of his mentor, Doris Humphrey.
Thus, he sees many of the smaller early chansons as a "proving ground" or "workshop" for compositional procedures that Josquin would later incorporate into larger works, for example the early canonic chansons as experiments that lead to the larger Salve regina a 4 based on a double canon, culminating in the masses printed in Misse Iosquin [Book 1] (Venice; Petrucci, 1502).
LEADERBOARD -(after 18holes): 7 under -Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), 6 under --Gregory Havret (Fra),5 under -Ivo Giner,Emanuele Canonic a (Ita),Jean- Franco is Remesy (Fra), Garry Houston (Wal),4 under -Wayne Westner (Rsa),Miguel Angel Jimenez, Gabriel Canizares,Gary Evans (Eng),Nick Dougherty (Eng),Cesar Monasterio (Arg), Steven O'Hara (Sco)Johan Kok (Rsa)Raul Ballesteros,David Lynn (Eng).
In Western music, canonic composers have exploited the conventions associated with pastoral themes for centuries: Vivaldi, Rameau, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, and Debussy, among others, have written music clearly identifiable as "pastoral" (Owen Jander and Geoffrey Chew, "Pastoral," Grove Musk Online, http://www.