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v. a choice to act or not, or a promise of a possibility, as distinguished from "shall" which makes it imperative. 2) in statutes, and sometimes in contracts, the word "may" must be read in context to determine if it means an act is optional or mandatory, for it may be an imperative. The same careful analysis must be made of the word "shall." Non-lawyers tend to see the word "may" and think they have a choice or are excused from complying with some statutory provision or regulation. (See: shall)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

MAY. To be permitted; to be at liberty; to have the power.
     2. Whenever a statute directs the doing of a thing for the sake of justice or the public good, the word may is the same as shall. For example, the 23 H. VI. says, the sheriff may take bail, that is construed he shall, for he is compellable to do so. Carth. 293 Salk. 609; Skin. 370.
     3. The words shall and may in general acts of the legislature or in private constitutions, are to be construed imperatively; 3. Atk. 166; but the construction of those words in a deed depends on circumstances. 3 Atk. 282. See 1 Vern. 152, case. 142 9 Porter, R. 390.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
[Q]uia maius est esse et in re quam in solo intellectu, et si illud in solo est intellectu, maius illo erit quidquid etiam in re fuerit....
non aliter quam distortis et quocunque modo prodigiosis corporibus apud quosdam maius est pretium quam iis, quae nihil ex communi habitu boni perdiderunt.
maius Latium that gave citizenship rights to all members of the town
Id neque maius neque pulchrius cuiquam atque mihi esse videtur, sed si liceat re publica salva ea persequi.
In this paper the author argues (1) that Anselm's discussion of divine justice and mercy is an exploration of God's nature as quo maius cogitari non potest, and (2) that his discussion contributes to a better understanding of the complicated relationship between God and creatures--including the creatures attempting to know or argue about God.
Quo maius potuit nihil Britannis Excelsus dare Jupiter, nec ipse Ad delubra deum referre maius Princeps munera quam sacrata pacis.
vidi execrandum regiae caedis nefas ipsasque ad ars maius
(24) "Scriptae autem eorum inuentae sunt aequales, nihil maius aut minus uel in littera una" (Evangelium, XXVII, 3, p.