from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Of greater than average size, extent, quantity, or amount; big.
  • adjective Of greater than average scope, breadth, or capacity; comprehensive.
  • adjective Important; significant.
  • adjective Understanding and tolerant; liberal.
  • adjective Of great magnitude or intensity; grand.
  • adjective Pretentious; boastful. Used of speech or manners.
  • adjective Obsolete Gross; coarse. Used of speech or language.
  • adjective Nautical Favorable. Used of a wind.
  • idiom (at large) Not in confinement or captivity; at liberty.
  • idiom (at large) As a whole; in general.
  • idiom (at large) Representing a nation, state, or district as a whole. Often used in combination.
  • idiom (at large) Not assigned to a particular country. Often used in combination.
  • idiom (at large) At length; copiously.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To get free.
  • Largely; broadly; freely; with license.
  • Fully; at large.
  • Nautical, before the wind; with the wind free or on the quarter, or in such a direction that studding-sails will draw: as, to go or sail large.
  • Full; at full; in all.
  • “Big”; boastfully.
  • Ample in dimensions, quantity, or number; having much size, bulk, volume, extent, capacity, scope, length, breadth, etc., absolutely or relatively; being of more than common measure; wide; broad; spacious; great; big; bulky: opposed to small or little, and used of both corporeal and incorporeal subjects: as, a large house, man, or ox; a large plain or river; a large supply, assembly, or number of people; to deal on a large scale or with large subjects; to seek a larger sphere; a man of large mind or heart; a large manner in painting; the largest liberty of action; to confer large powers upon an agent; large views.
  • Full; complete.
  • Ample or free in expenditure; liberal; lavish; prodigal; extravagant.
  • Ample or liberal in words; diffuse; free; full; extended: applied to language.
  • Free from restraint; being at large.
  • Free from moral restraint; broad; licentious.
  • Clamorous; boisterous; blatant.
  • Free; favorable as regards direction; fair: applied to the wind. See large, adv., 3.
  • Synonyms Big, etc. (see great); capacious, expansive, spacious.
  • noun Freedom; unrestraint: in the phrase at large (which see, below).
  • noun In old musical notation, a note properly equivalent in value either to three or to two longs, according to the rhythm used. Also called a maxima or maxim. It was variously made, as when used at the end of a piece its time value was often indefinite.
  • noun Bounty; largess.
  • noun At liberty; without restraint or confinement: as, to go at large; to be left at large.
  • noun At length; in or to the full extent; fully: as, to discourse on a subject at large.
  • noun In general; as a whole; altogether.
  • noun For the whole; free from the customary limitation. In the United States a congressman at large is one elected by the voters of a whole State instead of those of a single district; which is done when the existing apportionment by districts does not provide for all the representatives to which the State is entitled. In some places an alderman or a supervisor at large is elected by a whole city or county, in addition to those elected by wards or townships.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adverb obsolete Freely; licentiously.
  • noun (Mus.) A musical note, formerly in use, equal to two longs, four breves, or eight semibreves.
  • adjective Exceeding most other things of like kind in bulk, capacity, quantity, superficial dimensions, or number of constituent units; big; great; capacious; extensive; -- opposed to small
  • adjective Abundant; ample.
  • adjective Full in statement; diffuse; full; profuse.
  • adjective Having more than usual power or capacity; having broad sympathies and generous impulses; comprehensive; -- said of the mind and heart.
  • adjective obsolete Free; unembarrassed.
  • adjective obsolete Unrestrained by decorum; -- said of language.
  • adjective obsolete Prodigal in expending; lavish.
  • adjective (Naut.) Crossing the line of a ship's course in a favorable direction; -- said of the wind when it is abeam, or between the beam and the quarter.
  • adjective Diffusely; fully; in the full extent.
  • adjective See under Common, n.
  • adjective [U. S.] electors, or a representative, as in Congress, chosen to represent the whole of a State, in distinction from those chosen to represent particular districts in a State.


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

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin largus, generous.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English large, from Old French large, from Latin larga, feminine of largus ("abundant, plentiful, copious, large, much"). Displaced Middle English stoor, stour ("large, great") (from Old English stōr) and muchel ("large, great") (from Old English myċel).



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  • In my household, we refer to ourselves this way. To differentiate from our "medium", which is the cat, and the "smalls" which are the the pocket-pets (rodents). A feral house-mouse is, then, similarly small, little or, better tiny; and insects are tiny or wee. If we had a ferret, I suspect it would be smallish or not-quite-medium]

    December 15, 2006