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Definition main

Etymology 1

From Middle English mayn, main, maine, mæin, meyn, from main (noun) (see further at etymology 2); compare Old English mægen- (“strong, main, principal”) (used in combination) and Old Norse megn, megenn (“strong, main”). The word is cognate with Old High German megīn (“strong, mighty”) (modern German Möge, Vermögen (“power, wealth”)), and also akin to Old English magan (“to be able to”). See also may.


main (not comparable)

  1. Of chief or leading importance; prime, principal. [from 15th c.]
  2. Chief, most important, or principal in extent, size, or strength; consisting of the largest part.
  3. (archaic, of force, strength, etc.) Full, sheer, undivided. [from 16th c.]
  4. (dialectal) Big; angry.
  5. (nautical) Belonging to or connected with the principal mast in a vessel.
  6. (obsolete) Great in size or degree; important, powerful, strong, vast.

main (comparative more main, superlative most main)

  1. (Britain, dialectal) Exceedingly, extremely, greatly, mightily, very, very much.

main (third-person singular simple present mains, present participle maining, simple past and past participle mained)

  1. (transitive) Short for mainline (“to inject (a drug) directly into a vein”).
  2. (transitive, gaming) To mainly play a specific character, or side, during a game.
  3. (obsolete) Of a road: to convert into a main or primary road.

Etymology 2

From Middle English mayn, main, maine, mæine, mæȝen, from Old English mæġen (“strength”), from Proto-Germanic *maginą (“strength, power, might”), *maginaz (“strong”), from Proto-Indo-European *megʰ- (“be able”). The word is cognate with Old High German magen, megin, Old Norse magn, megn, megin, Old Saxon megin. More recent senses are derived from the adjective.


main (plural mains)

  1. That which is chief or principal; the chief or main portion; the bulk, the greater part, gross.
    1. (video games) The primary character that one plays in a video game in which one can play more than one character.
  2. A large cable or pipe providing utility service to an area or a building, such as a water main or electric main. [from 17th c.]
  3. (informal) Short for main course (“the principal dish of a meal”).
  4. (now poetic) The high seas. [from 16th c.]
  5. (now archaic, US dialectal) The mainland. [from 16th c.]
  6. (nautical) Short for mainsail. [from 17th c.]
  7. (obsolete, except in might and main) Force, power, strength, violent effort. [from 9th c.]

Etymology 3

Origin uncertain; probably from the adjective main. Evidence is lacking for a derivation from main (“hand”).


main (plural mains)

  1. (obsolete, gaming) A hand or match in a game of dice.
  2. (obsolete, gaming) The largest throw in a match at dice; in the game of hazard, a number from one to nine called out by a person before the dice are thrown.
  3. (obsolete, gaming) A stake played for at dice.
  4. (obsolete, gaming, sports) A sporting contest or match, especially a cockfighting match.
  5. A banker's shovel for coins.

Etymology 4

Origin uncertain, possibly from French main (“hand”).


main (plural mains)

  1. (obsolete, rare) A basket for gathering grapes.

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