I just heard someone said "a canonical horrible idea"

I have been googling and still unable to understand exactly what "canonical" means when not used in programming language.

Can someone explain me what "canonical" actually means?

  • What was the context of that sentence? What was the horrible idea, or why was it horrible? This sounds to me like either a mistake, or new slang.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 14:16
  • They were discussing about a startup idea (dog-salon recommendations) and then one of the members said that.
    – iv444
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 14:22
  • 3
    So then, like I said, this is either a misuse of canonical (doubly so, because they should have used the adverb canonically) to mean definitely a horrible idea, or else a new, slang meaning for the word. It's a mistake until other people start saying it too - then it's slang.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 14:42
  • 3
    Canonical has developed a use in hacker (computer programmer) culture to mean something like "the expected or standard way of doing things". So, although the quoted usage is a little unusual, I guess they meant that it was a classic exemplar of a bad idea. (Using "canonical" as a flat adverb, rather than "canonically".)
    – user323578
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 21:39
  • 1
    To misquote Gilbert & Sullivan ... "the very model of a horrible idea".
    – GEdgar
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 21:47

2 Answers 2


adjective Also ca·non·ic.
1 pertaining to, established by, or conforming to a canon or canons.
2 included in the canon of the Bible.
3 authorized; recognized; accepted; canonical works.

In short - authoritative
So, "a canonical horrible idea" would be an authoritatively horrible idea.

At least, that feels like the intent


As in such a bad idea that it is one of several bad ideas which have come up so often that they are popularized as well known bad ideas.

  • It would help if you explained how you came up with that interpretation. Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 7:52
  • Definition 3 above. It may also help if you look up the noun canon in a good dictionary. If it is a canonical bad idea, it belongs to the canon of bad ideas, as the Book of Mark belongs to the canon of the Bible, and Empire Strikes Back belongs.to the canon of Star Wars.
    – user344654
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 9:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.