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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 ?
The canonically and theologically rich theme of light also correlates with the weighty glory theme, highlighting the progress of redemption and the cosmic renewal that takes place through God's actions and God's agents.
Canonically, the verbs used in Finnish sentences with path adpositions indicate motion (Jaakola 1997; Lehismets forthcoming).
3 Every molecular species, M [not equal to] 1, can be written canonically in exactly one of the two forms,
Indeed, so lucid is the exposition throughout that the book makes almost as good an introduction to canonically postmodern approaches to the fiction of the 196os, 197os, and 198os as it does to Pynchon in particular.
The lead decision from the 1960s, or 1940s, which used to be referred to canonically, is now unimportant.
This leads to a reexamination of the scholastic-seeming terminology of "objective reality," "objective being," "material falsity" and, most canonically, "clarity and distinctness" that have caused so much perplexity in the exegesis of Meditations III.
Hence, earning a livelihood in relation to the devotional life is as the ritual purification (al-tahara) in relation to the canonically prescribed prayers (al-salat)--the one is seen to be dependent on the other, and the two are thereby integrated into a seamless whole.
The scandalous behavior of Archbishop Stefan comes after he unceremoniously appropriated the blessed name and historical heritage of the Bulgarian Patriarchate and Archbishopric of Ohrid to the canonically unrecognized Macedonian Orthodox Church and personally usurped the sacred title of the Archbishops of Ohrid, conveniently omitting the last part of the true title "and of Bulgaria".
The new charter, that replaces the old one issued in January, allows the church to be completely autocephalous, meaning that the church will be canonically and administratively independent, giving it the right to elect its own prelates and bishops, without the need to call a 'Greater Synod' involving the participation of bishops from affiliated Orthodox churches.
This chapter will explore the underlying requirements of canon law for establishing and administering Catholic schools, with a view toward helping to arrive at creative solutions to the question of how best to structure these schools civilly and canonically in order to ensure their temporal, spiritual, and religious well-being, and to assure that they can continue to make the kind of significant contributions to fulfilling the Catholic Church's educational mission in the United States that they have throughout U.
M the canonically vector bundle associated with the affine bundle E [?