[meyn-mast, -mahst; Nautical meyn-muh st]

noun Nautical.

the second mast from forward in any ship having two or more masts, except for a yawl, ketch, or dandy.
the larger forward mast of a yawl, ketch, or dandy.
the sole mast of any of various ships, as sloops or cutters.

Origin of mainmast

First recorded in 1475–85; main1 + mast1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for mainmast

Historical Examples of mainmast

  • Anything belonging to the mainmast should be distinguished by the prefix main.

    Boys' Book of Model Boats

    Raymond Francis Yates

  • He snatched a cross-bow from the rack about the mainmast, fitted a shaft to it and took aim.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

  • He stepped to the mainmast, about which the powder kegs had been stacked.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

  • They crowded to the bulwarks of the waist-deck and swarmed upon the rat-lines of the mainmast.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

  • All at once, by the mainmast, somebody catches him by the arm.

    Within the Tides

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for mainmast



nautical the chief mast of a sailing vessel with two or more masts, being the foremast of a yawl, ketch, or dandy and the second mast from the bow of most others
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 mainmast

16c., from main (adj.) + mast (n.1).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper