Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Most important; principal. See Synonyms at chief.
  • adj. Exerted to the utmost; sheer: by main strength.
  • adj. Nautical Connected to or located near the mainmast: a main skysail.
  • adj. Grammar Of, relating to, or being the principal clause or verb of a complex sentence.
  • adj. Obsolete Of or relating to a continuous area or stretch, as of land or water.
  • n. The chief or largest part: His ideas are, in the main, impractical.
  • n. The principal pipe or conduit in a system for conveying water, gas, oil, or other utility.
  • n. Physical strength: fought with might and main.
  • n. A mainland.
  • n. The open ocean.
  • n. Nautical A mainsail.
  • n. Nautical A mainmast.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Great in size or degree; vast; strong; powerful; important.
  • adj. Principal or chief in size or extent; largest; consisting of the largest part; most important by reason or size or strength.
  • adj. Belonging to or connected with the principal mast in a vessel.
  • adj. Big; angry.
  • adv. Very; very much; greatly; mightily; extremely; exceedingly.
  • n. That which is chief or principal; the chief or main portion; the gross; the bulk; the greater part.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Very or extremely strong.
  • adj. Vast; huge.
  • adj. Unqualified; absolute; entire; sheer.
  • adj. Principal; chief; first in size, rank, importance, etc..
  • adj. Important; necessary.
  • adv. Very; extremely.
  • n. A hand or match at dice.
  • n. A stake played for at dice.
  • n. The largest throw in a match at dice; a throw at dice within given limits, as in the game of hazard.
  • n. A match at cockfighting.
  • n. A main-hamper.
  • n. Strength; force; might; violent effort.
  • n. The chief or principal part; the main or most important thing.
  • n.
  • n. The great sea, as distinguished from an arm, bay, etc. ; the high sea; the ocean.
  • n. The continent, as distinguished from an island; the mainland.
  • n. principal duct or pipe, as distinguished from lesser ones; esp. (Engin.), a principal pipe leading to or from a reservoir.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Great in size or degree; vast; hence, strong; powerful; important.
  • Principal; prime; chief; leading; of chief or principal importance: as, his main effort was to please.
  • Principal or chief in size or extent; largest; consisting of the largest part; most important by reason of size or strength: as, the main timbers of a building; the main branch of a river; the main body of an army.
  • Full; undivided; sheer: now used chiefly in the phrases main strength, main force.
  • Nautical, belonging to or connected with the principal mast in a vessel.
  • “Big”; angry.
  • Mightily; exceedingly; extremely.
  • To furl: said of sails.
  • An obsolete variant of maim.
  • n. Strength; force; violent effort: now used chiefly in the phrase with might and main.
  • n. That which is chief or principal; the chief or main portion; the gross; the bulk; the greater part.
  • n.
  • n. The principal point; that which is of most importance; the chief or principal object, aim, or effort.
  • n. A broad expanse, as of space or light; unbroken extent; full sweep or stretch.
  • n. Now, specifically
  • n. The expanse of ocean; the open ocean; the high sea.
  • n. A continental stretch of land; a continent; the maiuland, as distinguished from islands.
  • n. A principal duct, channel, pipe, or electrical conductor, as a water- or gas-pipe running along a street in a town, or the largest conductor in a system of electric lights.
  • n. The thick part of meat.
  • n. A hand.
  • n. . A hand at dice; a throw of the dice at hazard.
  • n. A match at cock-fighting.
  • n. A banker's shovel for coin.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. any very large body of (salt) water
  • adj. (of a clause) capable of standing syntactically alone as a complete sentence
  • n. a principal pipe in a system that distributes water or gas or electricity or that collects sewage
  • adj. of force; of the greatest possible intensity
  • adj. most important element

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old English mægen, strength; see magh- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English main, mayn, meyn, partly from Old English mægen- ("strong, principal, main"; used in combination), from Old English mæġen ("strength"), and partly from Old Norse megn, megenn ("strong, main"); both from Proto-Germanic *maginan (“strength, power, might”), *maginaz (“strong”), from Proto-Indo-European *mogh-, *megh- (“power”). Cognate with Old High German megīn ("strong, mighty"), German Möge, Vermögen ("power, wealth"). Akin also to Old English magan ("to be able to"). More at may. (Wiktionary)
From Old English mægen ("strength"), later also taking senses from the adjective. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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Comments

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  • This comment placed in "billowy main"
    I found "billowy main" in On seeing the Elgin Marbles - Keats.
    "That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
    Wasting of old Time -- with a billowy main --
    A sun -- a shadow of a magnitude."

    March 31, 2011

  • WorldStewards refers to a political party and social movement in which people take on formal obligations to work together to care for one another and the world; those who work for a world based on sharing and cooperation.

    July 20, 2009

  • Not left out, because the dictionary you cite addresses this meaning (no. 9, a mainland). But couldn't help thinking that the famous John Donne passage would fit well in this mix.
    http://www.bartleby.com/73/134.html

    Like so many of my generation, I first encountered his words when I read Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

    June 27, 2009

  • The hand of a French person.

    January 9, 2008