The name Canaan in the Bible
Canaan is the name of the fourth son of Ham, the youngest son of Noah (Genesis 9:18). Canaan becomes the recipient of a curious curse that makes him the perpetual servant of his two uncles Japheth and Shem. After having survived the flood and their 230 days stay in the ark (40 days of rain, 150 days of floating, 40 days of drying) Noah plants a vineyard, makes wine and gets drunk and lays naked in his tent. Then not Canaan but Ham, the father of Canaan, sees Noah naked and quips about it to Shem and Japheth. The two older brothers walk into their father's tent backwards and cover Noah without looking at him.
When Noah awakes he learns what Ham has done but then lashes out at Canaan, Ham's fourth son. He says that Japheth should become large but live in the tents of Shem, but Canaan should be the servant of all of them. Why Noah gets so upset with Canaan instead of Ham is unknown but later Canaan would give his name to the much coveted country of Canaan and the people who live there. The original Canaanites (an ethically diverse group of people) are displaced by Israel (Deuteronomy 7:1).
Canaan's brothers are Cush (the Biblical name for Ethiopia), Mizraim (the Biblical name for Egypt) and Put. Canaan's eleven sons as listed in 1 Chronicles 1:13 are also all known nations, among whom Sidon, Heth, Jebusites (who owned Jerusalem—Joshua 10:1, 2 Samuel 5:6 ), Amorites, Hivites.
In the Greek New Testament the name Canaan is spelled Χανααν and Canaanite is spelled Χαναναιος. Both Matthew and Mark make mention of a Simon the Canaanite (Κανανιτης; Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:18), but that epithet probably has nothing to do with the country Canaan. See our article on the name Simon for more details.
Etymology of the name Canaan
The name Canaan may have been original—meaning "land of purple," says HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, which relates it to Phoenicia, also meaning purple—and turned proverbial, but it may also have been taken from the Hebrew verb כנע (kana)and projected back upon this person. Either way, the name Canaan surely has to do with the Hebrew verb כנע (kana) meaning be humbled:
The Old Testament's passion for reaching the "land of Canaan" may have a very clear connotation of reaching a blissful state of humility (also see Isaiah 57:15 and Matthew 18:4).
Being located on the bridge between three continents, he historical people of Canaan maintained a flowering culture of trade. Thus the words כנען, meaning Canaan, and כנעני, meaning Canaanite, acquired the additional meaning of trade or merchant (Zephaniah 1:11, Ezekiel 16:29). Perhaps the connection between Canaan the humble one and Canaan the merchant lies in the origin of trade, namely the last resource of those who owned no land, and who had to revert to selling other people's produces.
For a meaning of the name Canaan, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Low. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Merchant or Servant.