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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 ?
So it became imperative in the earliest years of the Islamic community after the passing of the Prophet and his companions to accurately assemble canonic collections as to every certified statement of the Prophet.
Moreover, the Orthodox Church had to face, also, an "aggressive laicization", (8) coming from the direction of incipient forms of non-confessional and/or anti-orthodox civil society organizations, which, in the name of "modernizing" orthodoxy and the freedom of conscience, imperatively and haughtily demanded impossible things of the Church, which could not be accepted by the Church without infringing its canonic principles and abdicating from its soteriological mission.
Low-grade (Federation International de Gynecologie et Obstetrique [FIGO] grade 1) tumors are characterized by mutations that deregulate the canonic Wnt/[beta]-cat and PI3K/Pten signaling pathways and typically lack TP53 mutations.
Erickson's third canonic and also highly inventive work, the column-and-beam framed, glass-skinned Museum of Anthropology (1976) at the University of British Columbia, is redolent of Kwaikiutl (American Indian) construction.
El dret comu europeu reneix a partir del segle XII, tot consolidant-se sobre dos fonaments: el dret roma i el dret canonic.
One may see from these data that parameters of the metal state in the two-phase zone for the canonic ESR ingot worsen by means of growth of its diameter: increases time of stay [[DELTA]t.
statutory meaning independently when canonic values are implicated.
The subject of the conference was an inspired choice: canons and canonic structures play an extremely important role in music of the later Middle Ages and Renaissance, and the final three essays even take us successively into the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.
More than an informative interpretation of canonic literature, Deming positions his book as an act of literature itself.
What prompted me to take this course was a strong desire to know what happened after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, how the Gospel and the Church spread throughout the world, why certain books became part of the canonic New Testament and other books were excluded, what the position of women truly was in the early Christian Church, who was Mary Magdalene and what was her association with Jesus, and other questions regarding the origin of the New Testament and the nature of the early Church.
The canonic form of this dynamic set of equations can be obtained by using the field oriented principle.
For example, in a canonic ensemble, students come to rehearsals already knowing how to play their instruments and are already versed in the tradition.