To Iceberg Slim and his contemporaries, this was jivespeak for a skilled pickpocket.

In the modern era, 'cannon' are automatic firearms of 20mm calibre or above, although as with much military terminology this figure, indeed this definition, is somewhat arbitrary, as shall be seen. Non-automatic weapons, such as field guns or certain anti-tank weapons, are not cannon. A cannon may have more than one barrel, indeed the most common cannon in use today are the 'Gatling guns' installed on many military aircraft, such as the Aden or M61 Vulcan - smaller-calibre versions of which are called 'miniguns'.

The evolution of the word is complicated. The word 'cannon' itself was only briefly used as an official term during the 17th century, the military otherwise calling their artillery ordnance 'guns'. For this reason, soldiers are taught from an early stage in their training not to call pistols, rifles or shotguns merely 'guns', as this misuse inevitably leads to confusion. Today, 'cannon' remains informal. Some large-bore hunting and sniping rifles are of a calibre equal to or approaching 20mm, but are never referred to as cannon, even though their ammunition might be described as 'cannon shells'. Some tank guns of 100mm calibre or more are fed from automatic loaders but are not usually referred to as cannon, although sometimes they are. Therefore, the term is somewhat arbitrary.

By the end of the 19th century a new generation of quick-firing rifled artillery pieces were generally called 'guns' to differentiate them from the ponderous cannon of yore. For the first quarter of the 20th century the term fell out of use, with the exception of the Hotchkiss rotary cannon, an oversized Gatling Gun used by the American navy. In the early 1930s the Swedish firm Bofors combined one of their smaller artillery pieces with an automatic loading mechanism. (Bofors was as this time quite controversial, as the company worked in partnership with Krupps of Germany. Although Germany's government and industrial capacity were restricted in their possession and manufacture of arms, one half of the world still required high-quality weapons with which to attack the other half, which in term required similar weapons with which to defend itself against the first half. Krupps' arrangement with Bofors allowed the company to design and manufacture weapons outside Germany, to much consternation from other governments - not so much for the morality of this trade, but for the competition it posed to Vickers-Armstrong, Oerlikon, Madsen and so forth).

Perhaps seeking to differentiate this new breed of small-calibre automatic artillery piece - or were they large-calibre automatic rifles? - 'cannon' appears to have come into use at this time, especially with reference to the aircraft guns of the Second World War. The most famous cannon derive from this period; the 40mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun, the 20mm Hispano and ShVAK aircraft cannon, and the 30mm Mauser, also an aircraft weapon. Today the most popular cannon are the aforementioned Vulcan and Aden, as well as the 30mm GAU-8 fitted to the A-10 Thunderbolt, the BAE SYSTEMS 30mm Rarden cannon and the Bushmaster 25mm weapon fitted to the American M2 Bradley. Many of the world's armoured personnel carriers are fitted with cannon of indeterminable manufacture. Cannon are more powerful than machine-guns, although they have a slower rate of fire and are thus more suited for use against vehicles than groups of infantry. Nonetheless, high-explosive cannon shells can make short work of defensive fortifications, notwithstanding their powerful psychological effect.

Can"non (?), n.; pl. Cannons (#), collectively Cannon. [F. cannon, fr. L. canna reed, pipe, tube. See Cane.]


A great gun; a piece of ordnance or artillery; a firearm for discharging heavy shot with great force.

⇒ Cannons are made of various materials, as iron, brass, bronze, and steel, and of various sizes and shapes with respect to the special service for which they are intended, as intended, as siege, seacoast, naval, field, or mountain, guns. They always aproach more or less nearly to a cylindrical from, being usually thicker toward the breech than at the muzzle. Formerly they were cast hollow, afterwards they were cast, solid, and bored out. The cannon now most in use for the armament of war vessels and for seacoast defense consists of a forged steel tube reinforced with massive steel rings shrunk upon it. Howitzers and mortars are sometimes called cannon. See Gun.

2. (Mech.)

A hollow cylindrical piece carried by a revolving shaft, on which it may, however, revolve independently.

3. (Printing.)

A kind of type. See Canon.

Cannon ball, strictly, a round solid missile of stone or iron made to be fired from a cannon, but now often applied to a missile of any shape, whether solid or hollow, made for cannon. Elongated and cylindrical missiles are sometimes called bolts; hollow ones charged with explosives are properly called shells. --
Cannon bullet, a cannon ball. [Obs.] --
Cannon cracker, a fire cracker of large size. --
Cannon lock, a device for firing a cannon by a percussion primer. --
Cannon metal. See Gun Metal. --
Cannon pinion, the pinion on the minute hand arbor of a watch or clock, which drives the hand but permits it to be moved in setting. --
Cannon proof, impenetrable by cannon balls. --
Cannon shot.
(a) A cannon ball.
(b) The range of a cannon.


© Webster 1913

Can"non, n. & v. (Billiards)

See Carom. [Eng.]


© Webster 1913

Can"non, v. i.


To discharge cannon.


To collide or strike violently, esp. so as to glance off or rebound; to strike and rebound.

He heard the right-hand goal post crack as a pony cannoned into it -- crack, splinter, and fall like a mast.


© Webster 1913

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.