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See more synonyms for mainly on Thesaurus.com
  1. 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.
  2. Obsolete. greatly; mightily; abundantly.
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Origin of mainly

First recorded in 1225–75, mainly is from the Middle English word maynliche, maynly. See main1, -ly
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for mainly

principally, chiefly, primarily, essentially, generally, largely, mostly, overall, substantially, usually, predominantly

Examples from the Web for mainly

Contemporary Examples of mainly

Historical Examples of mainly

  • Opera at both houses had been killed, mainly by the folly of party strife.


    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


  1. for the most part; to the greatest extent; principally
  2. obsolete strongly; very much
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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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper