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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 ?
epsilon]-log canonical, if the total discrepancies [greater than or equal to]
In each contrast, standardized canonical coefficients were calculated, informing the contribution of each response variable.
They are the canonical weights, analogous to beta weights in the multiple regression analysis.
4], such that each M-edge is contained in a canonical 4-cycle.
Reinsel (1984) suggested estimating firstly the regression of Y on a small number of "preferred" predictor variables, which are expected to yield canonical correlations that are a large portion of the total correlations due to all predictors, in the usual least squares method.
The present paper is concerned with the study of canonical hypergroups and hyperrings in a neutrosophic environment.
Age explained 80% of variation in the multivariate model, with a canonical correlation coefficient of 0.
Yes, that's correct, the OS is available for both phones and tablets and Canonical claims that the OS can support screen sizes anywhere between 6 to 20 inches, reinforcing the claim that Ubuntu OS for mobile is a unified OS across platforms, differing only in its front end.
htm) One smartphone , Canonical has remained quiet on hardware partners.
Ubuntu is already the most widely used Linux enterprise desktop, with customers in a wide range of sectors focused on security, cost and manageability" said Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical.
When Sugimura examined the expression patterns of individual members of the Wnt signaling network within quiescent HSCs' microenvironment he found that levels of canonical Wnt ligands where low.
To investigate the four research questions, four separate canonical correlation analyses were conducted.