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

  • n. The principal sail of a vessel.
  • n. A quadrilateral or triangular sail set from the after part of the mainmast on a fore-and-aft rigged vessel.
  • n. A square sail set from the main yard on a square-rigged vessel.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The largest (or only) sail on a sailing vessel.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The principal sail in a ship or other vessel.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In a square-rigged vessel, the sail bent to the main-yard; the main course: in a fore-and-aft rigged vessel, the large sail set on the after part of the mainmast.
  • n. plural The square sails on the mainmast: they are the course, or mainsail proper, the lower and upper topsails, the topgallantsail and royal, and also a skysail if the ship is lofty. Men-of-war usually carry single topsails instead of a divided sail.

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

  • n. the lowermost sail on the mainmast


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • One model, of a full-rigged ship, twenty-five feet in length, with skysail yards and all sails set, precise in every minutest detail aloft and alow, was undamaged save for a rent in her mainsail from a fragment of shell.

    With Funston's Men

  • But the big mainsail is still on, and the staysail, jib, and flying-jib are snapping and slashing at their sheets with every roll.

    Chapter 9

  • By the time dinner was over they were forced to put double reefs in mainsail and jib, and still the gale had not reached its height.

    The Cruise of the "Dazzler"

  • [Page 93] 1 Arabic – shoghool: a rope by which the mainsail is regulated.

    A Thousand Miles Up the Nile

  • Sailing around with just the mainsail is an excellent way to learn the principles and mechanics of changing direction, but it is not as much fun as sailing with both the jib and mainsail.

    Sailing Fundamentals

  • Thus for this purpose a mainsail is a piece of jute bagging, if you please, or ordinary canvas, and a hawser is a flexible rope.

    The Dead Men's Song Being the Story of a Poem and a Reminiscent Sketch of its Author Young Ewing Allison

  • The skipper's eye is on the mainsail, which is the point of pivoting.

    All Afloat A Chronicle of Craft and Waterways

  • The jibs I speedily doused and brought tumbling to the deck, but the mainsail was a harder matter.

    Treasure Island

  • I concluded that the mainsail was the big sail nearest to me, and I untied the "stops," making a note of the name for future use.

    Desk and Debit or, The Catastrophes of a Clerk

  • A small merchant vessel with two masts, particularly distinguished from other vessels with two masts by the form of her mainsail, which is bent to the whole length of her yard, hanging fore and aft, and inclined to the horizon at an angle of about 45 deg.

    Diary of Samuel Pepys — Complete


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