Canon vs. Cannon: What’s the Difference?

How much of a difference could a single letter really make?

Well, if you’re deciding on whether to use canon or cannon in a sentence, the different could be quite large.

Words like these are known as homophones, words that sound identical when pronounced but are different in spelling and in meaning. There are countless English homophones that trip up writers along their journey to publication, and these two are just one example (see others here).

What is the Difference Between Canon and Cannon?

In this post, I want to go over the differences between canon and cannon. I will use them in example sentences and demonstrate their functions and definitions.

After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever confuse canon vs. cannon again.

When to Use Canon

canon versus cannon grammar rulesCanon is a noun that has a few different meanings. The most commonly used ones are,

  • A corpus of writings.
  • An established principle.
  • An ecclesiastical law established by a church council.
  • The books of the Bible accepted as Holy Scripture.

Here is an example sentence using each meaning of canon.

  • The book serves as a gateway to the Western canon. (Group of writings)
  • Your conduct on the field violated the canons of fair play. (Established rule/principle)
  • The Vatican Council set forth a new set of ecclesiastical canons. (Laws established by a church council)
  • The Protestant canon has 66 books. (Books of the Bible)

The verb form of canon is canonize.

  • The church has officially canonized these books.

When to Use Cannon

canon v cannon worksheet and spellingCannon is also a noun and has one primary meaning: a large mounted weapon that fires heavy projectiles.

  • The cannons used in the Civil War were extremely advanced for their time.
  • The cannon on the Navy vessel sank three enemy ships.

Unlike canon, which requires a slight variation to act as a verb, cannon can act as verb without any changes. The verb cannon means to bombard with cannon.

  • The troops cannoned their enemies during a surprise attack.

Cannon does have a second definition that is very rare to see used but still worth mentioning: the loop at the top of a bell by which it is hung.

Mistakes Involving Cannon vs. Canon

The most common mistake involving cannon vs. canon is to use cannon when you really mean canon. For example,

  • His remarks in the courtroom last week violated the cannon of ethics for lawyers.

– should read –

  • His remarks in the courtroom last week violated the canon of ethics for lawyers.

Remember the Difference

A good way to make sure that mistake doesn’t happen in your writing is to remember this trick.

Cannon is the longer of the two words and usually refers to a big gun or mounted weapon. Since cannon is the bigger of the two words, associate it with a big gun.

Cannon is a big gun; for all other uses, use canon.

This isn’t universally true of course, as there are other uses for cannon (see above: the top of a bell), but it will get you by in almost all cases.


As you can see, one letter can be the difference between a written body of literature and a mounted gun for warfare. Remember this next time you can’t decide, “Is it cannon or canon?”

Canon is a body of written work, rules, principles, or laws.

Cannon is a large gun.