As in an airtight, sheet-metal container for food etc, dates from 1867, chiefly American, whereas the British preference is for tin, which dates from about the same time, and refers to the metal from which cans are made. It is not, as some people suppose, an abbreviation of canister. Can is an Old English word that dates from the 11th century for a cup or drinking vessel. The Latin canna also means a little cup, but it is uncertain whether the origin of the Old English word is Germanic or Latin. Can, modern American slang, for jail or the toilet dates from c. 1900; as in to fire someone, is also American, from c. 1905.