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[meyn-lee] /ˈmeɪn li/
chiefly; principally; for the most part; in the main; to the greatest extent:
Our success was due mainly to your efforts. The audience consisted mainly of students.
Obsolete. greatly; mightily; abundantly.
Origin of mainly
First recorded in 1225-75, mainly is from the Middle English word maynliche, maynly. See main1, -ly Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for mainly
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Opera at both houses had been killed, mainly by the folly of party strife.

    Handel Edward J. Dent
  • mainly we laid on our backs and talked; we didn't want to go to sleep.

    Tom Sawyer Abroad Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • If it was mainly invented by Wheatstone, it was chiefly introduced by Cooke.

  • That is mainly why I wished to see you—to say good-by, for the time.

    The Black Bag Louis Joseph Vance
  • The New Englanders were mainly farmers, hunters, and fishermen.

    The Nation in a Nutshell George Makepeace Towle
British Dictionary definitions for mainly


for the most part; to the greatest extent; principally
(obsolete) strongly; very much
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for mainly

late 13c., "vigorously," from main (adj.) + -ly (2). Meaning "especially" is from c.1400; that of "for the most part" is from 1660s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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