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

  • adjective Most important; principal. synonym: chief.
  • adjective Exerted to the utmost; sheer.
  • adjective Nautical Connected to or located near the mainmast.
  • adjective Obsolete Of or relating to a continuous area or stretch, as of land or water.
  • noun The chief or largest part.
  • noun The principal pipe or conduit in a system for conveying water, gas, oil, or other utility.
  • noun Physical strength.
  • noun A mainland.
  • noun The open ocean.
  • noun A mainsail.
  • noun A mainmast.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To furl: said of sails.
  • noun Strength; force; violent effort: now used chiefly in the phrase with might and main.
  • noun That which is chief or principal; the chief or main portion; the gross; the bulk; the greater part.
  • noun The principal point; that which is of most importance; the chief or principal object, aim, or effort.
  • noun A broad expanse, as of space or light; unbroken extent; full sweep or stretch.
  • noun Now, specifically
  • noun The expanse of ocean; the open ocean; the high sea.
  • noun A continental stretch of land; a continent; the maiuland, as distinguished from islands.
  • noun 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.
  • noun The thick part of meat.
  • An obsolete variant of maim.
  • 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.
  • noun A hand.
  • noun . A hand at dice; a throw of the dice at hazard.
  • noun A match at cock-fighting.
  • noun A banker's shovel for coin.
  • Mightily; exceedingly; extremely.

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

  • noun A hand or match at dice.
  • noun obsolete A stake played for at dice.
  • noun The largest throw in a match at dice; a throw at dice within given limits, as in the game of hazard.
  • noun A match at cockfighting.
  • noun obsolete A main-hamper.
  • adverb Obs. or Low, Obs. or Low Very; extremely.
  • noun Obs., except in certain phrases. Strength; force; might; violent effort.
  • noun Obs., except in special uses. The chief or principal part; the main or most important thing.
  • noun The great sea, as distinguished from an arm, bay, etc. ; the high sea; the ocean.
  • noun The continent, as distinguished from an island; the mainland.
  • noun principal duct or pipe, as distinguished from lesser ones; esp. (Engin.), a principal pipe leading to or from a reservoir.
  • noun the delivery pipe of a pump.
  • noun for the most part; in the greatest part.


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

[Middle English, from Old English mægen, strength; see magh- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old English mægen ("strength"), later also taking senses from the adjective.


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  • The hand of a French person.

    January 9, 2008

  • 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.

    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

  • 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

  • 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

  • "Main": see Spanish Main.

    October 31, 2015