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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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



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

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