Etymology
Advertisement
tin (n.)
Old English tin, from Proto-Germanic *tinom (source also of Middle Dutch and Dutch tin, Old High German zin, German Zinn, Old Norse tin), of unknown origin, not found outside Germanic.

Other Indo-European languages often have separate words for "tin" as a raw metal and "tin plate;" such as French étain, fer-blanc. Pliny refers to tin as plumbum album "white lead," and for centuries it was regarded as a form of silver debased by lead; hence its figurative use for "mean, petty, worthless." The chemical symbol Sn is from Late Latin stannum (see stannic).

Meaning "container made of tin" is from 1795. Tin-can is from 1770; as naval slang for "destroyer," by 1937. Tin-type in photography is from 1864. Tin ear "lack of musical discernment" is from 1909. Tin Lizzie "early Ford, especially a Model T," first recorded 1915.
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
can (v.1)

Old English 1st & 3rd person singular present indicative of cunnan "to know," less commonly as an auxiliary, "to have power to, to be able," (also "to have carnal knowledge"), from Proto-Germanic *kunnjanan "to be mentally able, to have learned" (source also of Old Norse kenna "to become acquainted, try," Old Frisian kanna "to recognize, admit, know," German kennen "to know," Middle Dutch kennen "to know," Gothic kannjan "to make known"), from PIE root *gno- "to know."

It holds now only the third sense of "to know," that of "to know how to do something" (as opposed to "to know as a fact" and "to be acquainted with" something or someone). Also used in the sense of may, denoting mere permission. An Old English preterite-present verb, its original past participle, couth, survived only in negation (see uncouth), but compare could. The present participle has spun off with a deflected sense as cunning.

Related entries & more 
can (v.2)
"to put up in cans," 1860, from can (n.1), especially "to put up in a sealed container for preservation." Sense of "to fire an employee" is from 1905. Related: Canned; canning.
Related entries & more 
can (n.)
generally, "a small cylindrical sheet-metal vessel used to contain liquids, preserves, etc.," Old English canne "a cup, container," from Proto-Germanic *kanna (source also of Old Saxon, Old Norse, Swedish kanna "a can, tankard, mug," also a unit of measure, Middle Dutch kanne, Dutch kan, Old High German channa, German Kanne). Probably an early borrowing from Late Latin canna "container, vessel," from Latin canna "reed," also "reed pipe, small boat;" but the sense evolution is difficult.

Modern sense of "air-tight vessel of tinned iron" is from 1867. Slang meaning "toilet" is c. 1900, said to be a shortening of piss-can; meaning "buttocks" is from c. 1910, perhaps extended from this.
Related entries & more 
jerry-can (n.)
"5-gallon metal container," 1943, from Jerry "a German." It was first used by German troops in World War II and later adopted by the Allies.
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
can-opener (n.)
"instrument for opening one end of a sealed tin can," 1868, from can (n.) + opener.
Related entries & more 
can-do (adj.)
"confident of performance," by 1952, from expression can do "it is possible" (1903), literally "(I or we) can do (it)," which is perhaps based on earlier no can do (see no).
Related entries & more 
oil-can (n.)

"can for holding oil," especially one with a long, narrow, tapering spout, used to oil machinery, 1839, from oil (n.) + can (n.).

Related entries & more 
Tin Pan Alley (n.)
"hit song writing business," 1907, from tin pan, slang for "a decrepit piano" (1882). The original one was "that little section of Twenty-eighth Street, Manhattan, that lies between Broadway and Sixth Avenue," home to many music publishing houses.
Related entries & more 
freezer (n.)
1847 as the name of a type of large tin can used in ice-cream manufacture; from freeze (v.) + -er (1). As a household appliance, from 1945. Freezer burn attested from 1929.
Related entries & more