- (Received Pronunciation, General American) enPR: mān, IPA(key): /meɪn/
Audio (GA) (file) Audio (AU) (file)
- Rhymes: -eɪn
- Homophones: mane, Maine
From Middle English mayn, main, maine, mæin, meyn, from main (noun) (see further at etymology 2); compare Old English mægen- (“strong, main, principal”) (used in combination) and Old Norse megn, megenn (“strong, main”). The word is cognate with Old High German megīn (“strong, mighty”) (modern German Möge, Vermögen (“power, wealth”)), and also akin to Old English magan (“to be able to”). See also may.
main (not comparable)
- Of chief or leading importance; prime, principal. [from 15th c.]
- 1696, John Tillotson, “Sermon I. The Wisdom of being Religious.”, in The Works of the Most Reverend Dr. John Tillotson, […], London: Printed for B. Aylmer, […] [a]nd W. Rogers, […], OCLC 181679196, pages 6–7:
- […] Religion direct us rather to ſecure inward peace than outward eaſe, to be more careful to avoid everlaſting and intolerable torment than ſhort and light afflictions which are but for a moment; […] In a word, our main intereſt is to be as happy as we can, and as long as is poſſible; and if we be caſt into ſuch circumſtances, that we muſt be either in part and for a time or elſe wholly and always miſerable, the beſt wiſdom is to chuſe the greateſt and moſt laſting happiness, but the leaſt and ſhorteſt miſery.
- 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter VII, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 4293071, page 77:
- With some of it on the south and more of it on the north of the great main thoroughfare that connects Aldgate and the East India Docks, St. Bede's at this period of its history was perhaps the poorest and most miserable parish in the East End of London.
- 1935, [George Goodchild], chapter 5, in Death on the Centre Court; a McLean Mystery, London: Hodder and Stoughton, OCLC 80449799:
- By one o'clock the place was choc-a-bloc. […] The restaurant was packed, and the promenade between the two main courts and the subsidiary courts was thronged with healthy-looking youngish people, drawn to the Mecca of tennis from all parts of the country.
- Chief, most important, or principal in extent, size, or strength; consisting of the largest part.
- Synonym: largest
- main timbers main branch of a river main body of an army
- 1667, John Milton, “Book VI”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker […] [a]nd by Robert Boulter […] [a]nd Matthias Walker, […], OCLC 228722708; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: […], London: Basil Montagu Pickering […], 1873, OCLC 230729554, lines 470–471:
- Not uninvented that, which thou aright / Beleivſt ſo main to our ſucceſs, I bring; […]
- 2013 August 3, “The Future of Oil: Yesterday’s fuel”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8847, archived from the original on 1 August 2013:
- The dawn of the oil age was fairly recent. Although the stuff was used to waterproof boats in the Middle East 6,000 years ago, extracting it in earnest began only in 1859 after an oil strike in Pennsylvania. […] It was used to make kerosene, the main fuel for artificial lighting after overfishing led to a shortage of whale blubber. Other liquids produced in the refining process, too unstable or smoky for lamplight, were burned or dumped.
- Of force, strength, etc.: full, sheer, undivided. [from 16th c.]
- 1817 December 31 (indicated as 1818), [Walter Scott], chapter XII, in Rob Roy. [...] In Three Volumes, volume I, Edinburgh: Printed by James Ballantyne and Co. for Archibald Constable and Co. […], OCLC 82790126, page 281:
- […] I shall never forget the diabolical sneer which writhed Rashleigh's wayward features, as I was forced from the apartment by the main strength of two of these youthful Titans.
- 1825 June 22, [Walter Scott], chapter IV, in Tales of the Crusaders. [...] In Four Volumes, volume I (The Betrothed), Edinburgh: Printed [by James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co., OCLC 5584494, page 71:
- Wounded and overthrown, the Britons continued their resistance, clung round the legs of the Norman steeds, and cumbered their advance; while their brethren, thrusting with pikes, proved every joint and crevice of the plate and mail, or grappling with the men-at-arms, strove to pull them from their horses by main force, or beat them down with their bills and Welch hooks.
- (dialectal) Big; angry.
- (nautical) Belonging to or connected with the principal mast in a vessel.
- (obsolete) Great in size or degree; important, powerful, strong, vast.
- 1718, Samuel Daniel, “The History of the Civil War. Book V.”, in The Poetical Works of Mr. Samuel Daniel, Author of the English History. […], volume II, London: Printed for R. Gosling, […] W. Mears, […] and J. Browne […], OCLC 1904801, stanza LXXXIX, page 167:
- And now that Current with main Fury ran / (The Stop remov'd that did the Courſe defend) / Unto the full of Miſchief, that began / T' an univerſal Ruin to extend; […]
- drain the main vein
- left main
- main battle tank
- main bitch
- main building
- main chance
- main clause
- main contractor
- main course
- main diagonal
- main dish
- main drag
- main earth
- main group
- main house
- main memory
- main pot
- main road
- main sequence
- main stage
- main verb
- main wheel
- (Britain, dialectal) Exceedingly, extremely, greatly, mightily, very, very much.
- 1754, Samuel Foote, “The Knights”, in The Knights. A Comedy, in Two Acts. […], Dublin: Printed by Richard James, […], OCLC 7748527, Act II, page 35:
- Suck[y]. A Draught of Ale, Friend, for I'm main dry. / Pen[elope]. Fie! fie! Niece! Is that Liquor for a young Lady? Don't disparage your Family and Breeding!
- 1778, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, “The Camp: A Musical Entertainment”, in The Dramatic Works of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. With a Memoir of the Author (Dove’s English Classics), London: Printed and published by J. F. Dove, […], published c. 1813–1828, OCLC 40729653, Act I, scene ii, page 309:
- Why, it's main jolly to be sure, and all that so fair.
- (transitive) Short for mainline (“to inject (a drug) directly into a vein”).
- (transitive, gaming) To mainly play a specific character, or side, during a game.
- He mains the same character as me in that game.
- What race do you main and what is your favourite race to beat?
- 2017 January 25, Dave Smith, “After Weeks of Bugging Him on Twitter, Elon Musk just Told Me His ‘Dark Secret’”, in Business Insider, archived from the original on 30 March 2017:
- Now, full disclosure: I too main Soldier 76 in "Overwatch" (by the way, the term "maining" is parlance for the most-often used character you play in a given game).
- (obsolete) Of a road: to convert into a main or primary road.
- 1904, Arthur Underhill, Charles Otto Blagden [et al.], editors, An Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents Other than Court Forms, volume 6, London: Butterworth, OCLC 894505420:
- When a rural district council considers that a highway in its district ought to become a main road by reason of its being a medium of communication between great towns, or a thoroughfare to a railway station, or otherwise, it may apply to the county council for an order "maining" the road under s. 15 of the Highways and Locomotives (Amendment) Act, 1878 (41 & 42 Vict. c. 77), as amended by s. 3 (viii.) of the Local Government Act, 1888 (51 & 52 Vict. c. 41), and the county council may make an order accordingly.
- 1927, The Municipal Journal and Public Works Engineer, volume XXXVI, London: Municipal Journal, OCLC 9860608:
- The borough did not have an opportunity of conferring with the County Council, but the County Council requested particulars of district roads in the borough which the Council suggested should be mained.
From Middle English mayn, main, maine, mæine, mæȝen, from Old English mæġen (“strength”), from Proto-Germanic *maginą (“strength, power, might”), *maginaz (“strong”), from Proto-Indo-European *megʰ- (“be able”). The word is cognate with Old High German magen, megin, Old Norse magn, megn, megin, Old Saxon megin. More recent senses are derived from the adjective.
main (plural mains)
- That which is chief or principal; the chief or main portion; the bulk, the greater part, gross.
- 1803, Francis Bacon, “The History of the Reign of King Henry the Seventh”, in The Works of Francis Bacon, Baron of Verulam, Viscount St. Alban, and Lord High Chancellor of England. In Ten Volumes, volume V, London: Printed for J. Johnson [et al.]; […], OCLC 5861323, page 8:
- But the King [Henry VII of England], […] preferring his affection to his own line and blood, […] resolved to rest upon the title of Lancaster as the main, and to use the other two, that of marriage, and that of battle, but as supporters, the one to appease secret discontents, and the other to beat down open murmur and dispute; […]
- 1718, Humphrey Prideaux, The Old and New Testaments Connected in the History of the Jews and Neighbouring Nations, from the Declension of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah to the Time of Christ, volume II, part I, 3rd edition, London: Printed for R. Knaplock […] and J[acob] Tonson […], OCLC 695990865, part II, book II, page 96:
- Antiochus […] thought it a proper time for him to attempt the recovery of Syria; and Hermias his prime Miniſter preſſed hard for his going in perſon to this war, contrary to the Opinion of Epigenes his General; who thought it chiefly concerned him to ſuppreſs the Rebellion of Alexander and Molon in the East; and therefore adviſed him to march immediately in perſon with the main of his Army for the ſubduing of thoſe Rebels, before they ſhould gather greater ſtrength in the revolted Provinces againſt him.
- A large cable or pipe providing utility service to an area or a building, such as a water main or electric main. [from 17th c.]
- 1778 April 3, “Appendix. Report from the Committee on the State of the Pavements, &c. in the Streets of Dublin”, in The Journals of the House of Commons, of the Kingdom of Ireland, […], volume XX, Dublin: Printed by Abraham Bradley and Abraham Bradley King, […], published 1782, OCLC 264474860, page 539:
- [T]he Contract with the Pipe-water Pavior was, as he recollects, to keep the Pavement in Repair for ſix Weeks; did oblige the Contractor to repair many Places in that ſix Weeks; there was a Part of the new Main failed in Dame-ſtreet; was obliged to take up three or four Pieces in Length, in conſequence of a Sewer being made there, which undermined the Main, and put it out of its Place; […]
- 1876 June 19, Guildford Barker Richardson, interviewee, “Mr. Guildford Barker Richardson, Called in; and further Examined”, in Report from the Select Committee on the Metropolis Gas (Surrey Side) Bill; together with the Proceedings of the Committee, and Minutes of Evidence (Reports from Committees: Seven Volumes; 4), volume XI, [London]: Ordered, by the House of Commons, to be printed, published 28 July 1876, OCLC 941806973, paragraph 4780, page 335:
- [T]he Board would have put down, and indeed have ordered, hydrants where the water companies have put down new mains, or at all events are quite prepared upon those new mains to fix hydrants.
- (informal) Short for main course (“the principal dish of a meal”).
- I had scampi and chips for my main and a slice of cheesecake for dessert.
- (now poetic) The high seas. [from 16th c.]
- 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Qveene. […], London: Printed [by John Wolfe] for VVilliam Ponsonbie, OCLC 960102938, book II, canto VI, stanza 17, page 261:
- 1697, Virgil; John Dryden, transl., “The Fifth Book of the Æneis”, in The Works of Virgil: […], London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, […], OCLC 403869432, lines 1115–1119, page 360:
- The God, inſulting with ſuperiour Strength, / Fell heavy on him, plung'd him in the Sea, / And, with the Stern, the Rudder tore away, / Headlong he fell, and, ſtrugling in the Main, / Cry'd out for helping hands, but cry'd in vain: […]
- c. 1744, Thomas Broughton (libretto); George Frideric Handel (music), “Hercules: An Oratorio”, in The Miscellaneous Pieces, as Set to Music, of Geo. Fred. Handel. […], part II, London: Printed for T. Heptinstall, […], published 1799, OCLC 642364001, part the second [Act II, scene iv], page 53:
- Wanton god of am'rous fires, / Wishes, sighs and soft desires, / All nature's sons thy laws maintain; / O'er liquid air, firm land, and swelling main, / Extend thy uncontroul'd and boundless reign.
- 1907, Rudyard Kipling, “The Sons of Martha”, in Rudyard Kipling’s Verse: Inclusive Edition 1885–1918, London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., published 1927, OCLC 5198131, pages 436–437:
- The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part; / But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and the troubled heart, / […] / It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain, / Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.
- (now archaic, US dialectal) The mainland. [from 16th c.]
- 1624, Francis Bacon, “Considerations Touching a War with Spain. Inscribed to Prince Charles, An. 1624.”, in The Works of Francis Bacon, Baron of Verulam, Viscount St. Alban, and Lord High Chancellor of England, volume III, Printed for J[ohn] Walthoe, […], published 1740, OCLC 960099509, page 526:
- In the year that followed of 1589, we gave the Spaniards no breath, but turned challengers, invaded the main of Spain. In which enterprize, although we failed of our end, which was to ſettle Don Antonio in the kingdom of Portugal, yet a man ſhall hardly meet with an action that doth better reveal the great ſecret of the power of Spain: […]
- 1624, John Donne, “17. Meditation”, in Deuotions upon Emergent Occasions, and Seuerall Steps in My Sicknes: […], London: Printed by A[ugustine] M[atthews] for Thomas Iones, OCLC 55189476, lines 2–3; republished as Geoffrey Keynes, John Sparrow, editor, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions: […], Cambridge: At the University Press, 1923, OCLC 459265555, page 98:
- No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; […]
- 1624, Anthony Bagnall; Nathanaell Powell; Anas Todkill, “Chapter V. The Accidents that Hapned in the Discovery of the Bay of Chisapeack”, in John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: […], London: Printed by I[ohn] D[awson] and I[ohn] H[aviland] for Michael Sparkes, OCLC 1049014009, book 3; reprinted in The Generall Historie of Virginia, [...] (Bibliotheca Americana), Cleveland, Oh.: The World Publishing Company, 1966, OCLC 633956660, page 56:
- The higheſt land on the mayne, yet it was but low, we called Keales hill, and theſe vninhabited Iſles, Ruſſels Iſles.
- 1851 October 18, Herman Melville, “Knights and Squires”, in The Whale, 1st British edition, London: Richard Bentley, OCLC 14262177; Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, 14 November 1851, OCLC 57395299, page 131:
- Tashtego's long, lean, sable hair, his high cheek bones, and black rounding eyes— […] all this sufficiently proclaimed him an inheritor of the unvitiated blood of those proud warrior hunters, who, in quest of the great New England moose, had scoured, bow in hand, the aboriginal forests of the main.
- (nautical) Short for mainsail. [from 17th c.]
- (obsolete, except in might and main) Force, power, strength, violent effort. [from 9th c.]
- 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Qveene. […], London: Printed [by John Wolfe] for VVilliam Ponsonbie, OCLC 960102938, book II, canto IX, stanza 14, page 311:
- For with ſuch puiſſance and impetuous maine / Thoſe Champions broke on them, that forſt the fly, / Like ſcattered Sheepe, whenas the Shepherds ſwaine / A Lyon and a Tigre doth eſpye, / With greedy pace forth ruſhing from the foreſt nye.
- fire main
- for the main
- gas main
- in the main
- main brace, mainbrace
- main drag
- mainline, main line
- main man
- main street, Main Street, mainstreet
- might and main
- rising main
- Spanish Main
- water main
main (plural mains)
- (obsolete, gaming) A hand or match in a game of dice.
- 1689 May 14, Mr. Prior [Matthew Prior?], “Epistle to Fleetwood Shephard, Esq.”, in “Mr. Gentleman” [pseudonym], The New Pleasing Instructor: Or, Entertaining Moralist. […], York, Yorkshire: Printed by C. Etherington, for John Bell, […] and C. Etherington, […], published 1772, OCLC 79576873, page 370:
- That writing is but juſt like dice, / And lucky mains make people wiſe: / That jumbled words, if fortune throw 'em, / Shall, well as Dryden, form a poem; […]
- (obsolete, gaming) The largest throw in a match at dice; in the game of hazard, a number from one to nine called out by a person before the dice are thrown.
- 1598, Richard Barckley, “To the Reader”, in A Discourse of the Felicitie of Man: Or His Summum Bonum, London: Printed [by Richard Field] for VVilliam Ponsonby, OCLC 222534024; republished as “To the Reader”, in A Discovrse of the Felicite of Man. Or His Summum Bonum, newly corrected and augmented edition, London: Printed [by James Roberts] for VVilliam Ponsonby, 1603, OCLC 606480974:
- Euery man hath not beene brought vp in the knowledge of toungs. And it chanceth often to the reader, as it doth to diceplayers, that gaine more by the bye then by the maine.
- (obsolete, gaming) A stake played for at dice.
- c. 1597, [William Shakespeare], The History of Henrie the Fovrth; […], quarto edition, London: Printed by P[eter] S[hort] for Andrew Wise, […], published 1598, OCLC 932916628, [Act IV, scene i]:
- [W]ere it good / To ſet the exact wealth of al our ſtates / Al at one caſt? to ſet ſo rich a maine / On the nice hazard of one doubtfull houre?
- Is it good / To bet all of our wealth / On one throw of the dice? To place so high a stake / On the risky hazard of one doubtful hour?
- (obsolete, gaming, sports) A sporting contest or match, especially a cockfighting match.
- 1852, William Makepeace Thackeray, “After Good Fortune Comes Evil”, in The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. […] In Three Volumes, volume I, London: Printed for Smith, Elder, & Company, […], OCLC 1003921571, page 171:
- My lord was hunting all day when the ſeaſon admitted; he frequented all the cockfights and fairs in the country, and would ride twenty miles to ſee a main fought, or two clowns break their heads at a cudgelling match; […]
- A banker's shovel for coins.
main (plural mains)
- (obsolete, rare) A basket for gathering grapes.
- [1751, Robert Ainsworth; Samuel Patrick, “A main”, in Thesaurus Linguæ Latinæ Compendiarius: Or, A Compendious Dictionary of the Latin Tongue: […], 3rd edition, London: Printed by C. and J. Ackers, for W[illiam] Mount and T[homas] Page [et al.], OCLC 644251218, column 1:
- A main [hamper] Corbis vindemiatorius]
- ^ “main, adj.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 3 June 2018.
- ^ “main, n.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 3 June 2018.
- ^ “main, sb.1” in John A. Simpson and Edward S. C. Weiner, editors, The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989, →ISBN, page 216, columns 1–2.
- ^ “main, sb.3” in John A. Simpson and Edward S. C. Weiner, editors, The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989, →ISBN, page 217, column 1.
- (first-person singular pronoun, oblique case) me
- Instructive plural form of maa.
main f (plural mains)
- “main” in le Trésor de la langue française informatisé (The Digitized Treasury of the French Language).
- Malcolm Ross, Proto Oceanic and the Austronesian Languages of Western Melanesia, Pacific Linguistics, series C-98 (1988)
- Stephen Adolphe Wurm, New Guinea Area Languages and Language Study (1976)
- to play
- pemain [agentive / qualitative / instrumental / abstract / measure] (peN-)
- mainan [resultative / locative / collective / variety / verbal noun / fruit] (-an)
- main-main [reduplication] (redup)
- permain [causative passive] (peR-)
- mainkan [causative benefactive] (-kan)
- maini [causative (locative) benefactive] (-i)
- memain [agent focus] (meN-)
- dimain [patient focus] (di-)
- termain [agentless action] (teR-)
- bermain [stative / habitual] (beR-)
main f (plural mains)
- French: main
Audio (Jersey) (file)
main f (plural mains)
- dé (“finger”)
|Note: Some of these forms may be hypothetical. Not every|
possible mutated form of every word actually occurs.