Definitions

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.

  • Mightily; exceedingly; extremely.
  • To furl: said of sails.
  • 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.
  • An obsolete variant of maim.
  • 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.

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.
  • 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.
  • noun with all one's strength; with violent effort.

Etymologies

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

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.

Examples

Comments

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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.

    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

  • 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