Definition of canister in English:



  • 1A round or cylindrical container used for storing such things as food, chemicals, or rolls of film.

    • ‘Each of the canisters contain forms for residents to fill in their medical history, including any allergies or regular prescriptions and next of kin.’
    • ‘Firefighters were forced to retreat when they realised that the building contained acetylene canisters, gas bottles and diesel barrels.’
    • ‘Small coffee cans, peanut jars, or even those little black film canisters, all make decent containers.’
    • ‘What they didn't know was where all of the canisters of bacteria were stored.’
    • ‘If you happen to be a reader of the Guardian's letters pages, you'll probably know about the recent exchanges over uses for 35 mm film canisters.’
    • ‘Then, to add insult to injury, canisters of deadly chemicals began to be washed up in the area.’
    • ‘Pill bottles or film canisters make excellent storage containers for seeds.’
    • ‘The contents of the canisters were liquid chemicals that were highly dangerous.’
    • ‘No longer do you need to transport 50 kilograms of film reels in canisters.’
    • ‘The Scarecrow is walking through the plant, stopping to pause and check the labels on various canisters of chemicals.’
    • ‘Therefore, none of the stored projectiles or canisters contain lethal chemical agents.’
    • ‘And 40 homes in Oldham had to be evacuated after a fire at a garage in Barry Street, where oxy-acetylene canisters were stored.’
    • ‘The metal canisters were cylindrical and each one was a little smaller than a tobacco tin.’
    • ‘Seam rippers and thread nippers slip nicely into empty prescription pill containers or film canisters.’
    • ‘Each canister contains enough for applications on 13 pairs of cross country skis.’
    • ‘Sure enough, hidden beneath the bench is a 35 mm film canister containing two pencils and a sheet of paper.’
    • ‘It has two tin-lined oak canisters, which now contain period news cuttings and letters supporting its history.’
    • ‘It could be immobilized in canisters and stored in the Yucca Mountains.’
    • ‘Sweet and savory dainties packaged in appealing canisters, baskets and bags are at the heart of the Christmas bazaar.’
    • ‘With this scheme elderly and vulnerable people can have important information about themselves stored inside a canister to assist rescuers called in an emergency.’
    1. 1.1 A cylinder of pressurized gas, typically one that explodes when thrown or fired from a gun.
      ‘riot police fired tear-gas canisters into the crowd’
      • ‘Thus ambushed, the pickets were made to run a gauntlet of police firing teargas canisters and rubber bullets at close range.’
      • ‘Lasky admitted charges of possessing a CS gas canister and possessing a weapon adapted to discharge a noxious substance.’
      • ‘Police fired tear gas canisters at the crowd, including the council workers' wives, many with babies strapped to their backs.’
      • ‘At 10 A.M. the police fired the first seven canisters of tear gas into the crowd.’
      • ‘Riot police and soldiers fired canisters of tear gas at the protesters as they entered the parliament compound.’
    2. 1.2historical mass noun Small bullets packed in cases that fit the bore of a gun.
      ‘another deadly volley of canister’
      • ‘The most common canon was called the Napoleon and used both grape shot and canister ammunition.’
      • ‘When we got her stern to us we raked her hotly with plenty of grape and canister.’
      • ‘The ammunition encountered by the soldiers was called canister, one of the war's most deadliest rounds.’
      • ‘I could run out of mine tomorrow; just like I suppose Buck ran out of his that previous night, one foot doing what years of canister and grape shot had not.’
      • ‘The introduction of the rifled musket in the 1850s with ranges greater than canister altered the role of field artillery.’


Late 15th century (denoting a basket): from Latin canistrum, from Greek kanastron ‘wicker basket’, from kanna ‘cane, reed’ (see cane).