1. Most important; principal. See Synonyms at chief.
2. Exerted to the utmost; sheer: "They took her off the sled by main strength" (Jack London).
3. Nautical Connected to or located near the mainmast: a main skysail.
4. Obsolete Of or relating to a continuous area or stretch, as of land or water.
1. The chief or largest part: His ideas are, in the main, impractical.
2. The principal pipe or conduit in a system for conveying water, gas, oil, or other utility.
3. Physical strength: fought with might and main.
4. A mainland.
5. The open ocean.
a. A mainsail.
b. A mainmast.
7. The main dish of a meal: "Unsurprisingly, the mains and their house-made condiments were the standouts of a recent meal" (Lindsey Tramuta).
[Middle English, from Old English mægen, strength; see magh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.