[ meyn ]
See synonyms for main on
  1. chief in size, extent, or importance; principal; leading: the company's main office; the main features of a plan.

  2. sheer; utmost, as strength or force: to lift a stone by main force.

  1. of or relating to a broad expanse: main sea.

  2. Grammar. syntactically independent; capable of use in isolation.: Compare dependent (def. 4), independent (def. 14), main clause.

  3. Nautical.

    • of or relating to a mainmast.

    • noting or pertaining to a sail, yard, boom, etc., or to any rigging belonging to a mainmast.

    • noting any stay running aft and upward to the head of a mainmast: main topmast stay.

  4. Obsolete.

    • having or exerting great strength or force; mighty.

    • having momentous or important results; significant.

  1. a principal pipe or duct in a system used to distribute water, gas, etc.

  2. physical strength, power, or force: to struggle with might and main.

  1. the chief or principal part or point: The main of their investments was lost during the war.

  2. Literary. the open ocean; high sea: the bounding main.

  3. the mainland.

  4. Usually mains . a main course in a meal: The restaurant offers four mains: one chicken, two beef, and one fish.

  1. South Midland U.S. (chiefly Appalachian). very; exceedingly: The dogs treed a main big coon.

verb (used with or without object)
  1. Slang. mainline.

Idioms about main

  1. in the main, for the most part; chiefly: In the main, the novel was dull reading.

Origin of main

First recorded before 900; Middle English noun main(e), mayn(e) “strength, power,” Old English mægen, megen, cognate with Old Norse magn, megin, megn “strength”; Middle English adjective main(e), partly from Old Norse megin-, megn “strong,” partly from Old English noun mægen used in compounds, as in mægen-weorc “mighty work”

Other words for main

Opposites for main

Words Nearby main

Other definitions for main (2 of 3)

[ meyn ]

  1. a cockfighting match.

Origin of main

First recorded in 1560–70; origin uncertain; perhaps special use of main1; compare main chance

Other definitions for Main (3 of 3)

[ meyn; German mahyn ]

  1. a river in central and W Germany, flowing W from the Bohemian Forest in N Bavaria into the Rhine at Mainz. 305 miles (490 km) long. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use main in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for main (1 of 3)


/ (meɪn) /

  1. chief or principal in rank, importance, size, etc

  2. sheer or utmost (esp in the phrase by main force)

  1. nautical of, relating to, or denoting any gear, such as a stay or sail, belonging to the mainmast

  2. obsolete significant or important

  1. a principal pipe, conduit, duct, or line in a system used to distribute water, electricity, etc

  2. (plural)

    • the main distribution network for water, gas, or electricity

    • (as modifier): mains voltage

  1. the chief or most important part or consideration

  2. great strength or force (now chiefly in the phrase (with) might and main)

  3. literary the open ocean

  4. archaic short for Spanish Main

  5. archaic short for mainland

  6. in the main or for the main on the whole; for the most part

Origin of main

C13: from Old English mægen strength

British Dictionary definitions for main (2 of 3)


/ (meɪn) /

  1. a throw of the dice in dice games

  2. a cockfighting contest

  1. a match in archery, boxing, etc

Origin of main

C16: of unknown origin

British Dictionary definitions for Main (3 of 3)


/ (meɪn, German main) /

  1. a river in central and W Germany, flowing west through Würzburg and Frankfurt to the Rhine. Length: about 515 km (320 miles)

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with main


In addition to the idioms beginning with main

  • main drag
  • main squeeze

also see:

  • eye to the main chance
  • in the main
  • might and main

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.