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majority

[ muh-jawr-i-tee, -jor- ]
/ məˈdʒɔr ɪ ti, -ˈdʒɒr- /
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noun, plural ma·jor·i·ties.
the greater part or number; the number larger than half the total (opposed to minority): the majority of the population.
a number of voters or votes, jurors, or others in agreement, constituting more than half of the total number.
the amount by which the greater number, as of votes, surpasses the remainder (distinguished from plurality).
the party or faction with the majority vote: The Democratic Party is the majority.
the state or time of being of full legal age: to attain one's majority.
the military rank or office of a major.
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Idioms about majority

    join the (great) majority, to die.

Origin of majority

From the Medieval Latin word majōritās, dating back to 1545–55. See major, -ity

synonym study for majority

3. Majority, plurality, in the context of an election, poll, or other voting situation resulting in a statistically based statement, both denote an amount or number larger than some other. In situations in which only two candidates, options, or positions are concerned, the terms are interchangeable, though majority is by far the more commonly used: She beat her opponent by a large majority. The proposal received a large plurality of “Yes” votes. When three or more choices are available, however, a distinction is made between majority and plurality. A majority, then, consists of more than one-half of all the votes cast, while a plurality is merely the number of votes one candidate receives in excess of the votes for the candidate with the next largest number. Thus, in an election in which three candidates receive respectively 500, 300, and 200 votes, the first candidate has a plurality of 200 votes, but not a majority of all the votes cast. If the three candidates receive 600, 300, and 100 votes, the first has a majority of 100 votes (that is 100 votes more than one-half the total of 1000 cast) and a plurality of 300 votes over the nearest opponent.

OTHER WORDS FROM majority

non·ma·jor·i·ty, noun, plural non·ma·jor·i·ties.

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH majority

majority , plurality (see synonym study at the current entry)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

MAJORITY VS. PLURALITY

What’s the difference between a majority and a plurality?

Generally speaking, the word majority refers to an amount that’s larger than half of a total, while the word plurality refers to an amount that’s the largest of all the amounts that make up a total (even if it’s less than half).

In casual use, the two words are sometimes used interchangeably to mean more than half of a total.

They are also sometimes used interchangeably in an election with only two candidates (though majority is much more commonly used in the context). That’s because, in an election with only two ways to vote, getting more votes necessarily means getting more than half of the votes. For example, in such an election, a candidate can be said to have won by a two-thirds majority or a two-thirds plurality (meaning they have received two-thirds of all the votes cast, with the losing candidate receiving one-third).

The terms are used in differing ways in elections with three or more candidates. In such an election, the word plurality often refers to the highest number of votes received when no candidate has received more than 50% of the vote.

In this context, to win a plurality of votes, you just have to get the largest percentage of all vote-getters, which may not be as high as 50%. For example, a candidate in a three-way race may win the plurality by getting 40% of votes, with the runner-up getting 35% of votes and the last-place finisher getting 25% of votes. To win a majority of votes, a candidate would have to get more than 50%.

Sometimes, plurality refers to how many more votes the winner has than the runner-up, and majority refers to the number of votes by which a candidate has exceeded the amount that would be 50%.

If three candidates were to receive 600, 300, and 100 votes, the winner would have a 100-vote majority (due to having 100 votes more than 500, which is half of the total of 1,000 votes cast) and a plurality of 300 votes over the nearest opponent.

Some types of elections require a candidate to receive the majority of the votes to win the election, while others just require a plurality.

Here’s an example of majority and plurality used correctly in the same sentence.

Example: Although no candidate received the majority of the vote, Ms. Molineaux got the plurality with 40%.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between majority and plurality.

Quiz yourself on majority vs. plurality!

Should majority or plurality be used in the following sentence?

At 65% of all purchases, sneakers make up the _____ of the company’s sales.

How to use majority in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for majority

majority
/ (məˈdʒɒrɪtɪ) /

noun plural -ties

Word Origin for majority

C16: from Medieval Latin mājoritās, from major (adj)

usage for majority

The majority of can only refer to a number of things or people. When talking about an amount, most of should be used: most of (not the majority of) the harvest was saved
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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