Definition of canasta in US English:



  • 1A card game resembling rummy, using two packs. It is usually played by two pairs of partners, and the aim is to collect sets (or melds) of cards.

    • ‘Many women their age are playing canasta or bingo.’
    • ‘At the time, we grandkids thought this was some kind of peculiar old-person habit, like playing canasta and reading Reader's Digest.’
    • ‘My grandmother spent her hours playing dominoes and canasta and gossiping.’
    • ‘In samba wild cards are not so important as in canasta.’
    • ‘This game, formerly known as Canasta Five, is a variation of canasta played with three 52 card packs plus jokers, which has achieved great success in Australia and New Zealand.’
    • ‘He also reads music, plays canasta, and can operate a manual transmission car if the seat is pulled up all the way.’
    • ‘Once ensconced as a fully-fledged academic, he narrowed his field of hobbies to include amateur beatification and canasta.’
    • ‘I did not hang around with gangs, did not do drugs and for the previous twelve months I shared a small flat with my grandmum and played countless games of canasta.’
    • ‘She played canasta obsessively and seemed to have endless folding tables.’
    • ‘The trip meant enjoying a fine meal in the dining car, or perhaps a game of canasta (for the gentlemen in their suits) in the club car.’
    • ‘It beats playing canasta, and you never know what you will see.’
    1. 1.1 A meld of seven cards in the game of canasta.
      • ‘You cannot go out until your team has completed two red canastas and one canasta of wild cards.’
      • ‘It is possible to pick up the discard pile if it is not frozen and you have a meld or canasta in the same rank as the top card of the pile.’
      • ‘You must have at least one example of each type - natural, mixed, wild, sequence and sevens - completed with 7 cards in each, and you may also have additional canastas or smaller melds of any types.’
      • ‘However, you are only allowed to go out if your team has melded two sambas, or two canastas (pure or mixed ones), or one samba and one canasta.’
      • ‘Bonuses for red threes, canastas and so on cannot be counted towards meeting the minimum.’
      • ‘At the end, if you have completed your canasta of sevens, each red three you have laid out counts for 100 points bonus.’
      • ‘For instance, if I form a canasta of sevens, any further sevens that are discarded by any player prevent the next player from taking the discard pile in the same way that black threes and wild cards do.’


1940s: from Spanish (of Uruguayan origin), literally ‘basket’, based on Latin canistrum ‘basket’ (see canister).