\ ˈmān How to pronounce main (audio) \

Definition of main

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : physical strength : force used in the phrase with might and mainThe next instant we were away down the river, clawing with might and main to keep out of the woods.— Mark Twain
3 : the chief part : essential point they are in the main well-trained
4 : a pipe, duct, or circuit which carries the combined flow of tributary branches of a utility system

Definition of main (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : chief, principal the main idea
2 : fully exerted : sheer main force by main strength
3 obsolete : of or relating to a broad expanse (as of sea)
4 : connected with or located near the mainmast or mainsail
5 : expressing the chief predication in a complex sentence the main clause


geographical name
\ ˈmīn How to pronounce Main (audio) , ˈmān \

Definition of Main (Entry 3 of 3)

river 325 miles (523 kilometers) long in south central Germany rising in northern Bavaria in the Fichtelgebirge and flowing west into the Rhine River

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Examples of main in a Sentence

Noun My radio runs either off batteries or off the mains. Turn off the water at the mains. Adjective Speed is the main advantage of this approach. The company's main office is located in New York. driving down the main road This dish can be served as a main course or appetizer. And now for the main event of the evening!
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Inclement weather has forced a postponement of plans to close Sweet Apple Road in Milton for the installation of a new natural gas main, the city announced. David Ibata, ajc, "Gas utility postpones Sweet Apple Road closure in Milton," 3 Mar. 2020 Selections include mains like Northern Italian-style lasagna with beef, pork, mushrooms and béchamel sauce; and rotolo verde pasta rolled with spinach, baked with mascarpone and gruyere cheese and served with tomato sauce. Audrey Eads, Dallas News, "D-FW restaurants offering takeout and delivery for Easter and Passover," 31 Mar. 2020 The new pasta restaurant at Northeast Portland’s neighborhood-friendly Campana is offering a dining month menu with four different starters, six (!) different mains (including a classic risotto and chicken cacciatore) and four desserts. oregonlive, "Portland’s 33 best $33 dining month menus," 7 Mar. 2020 Broken water mains, broken gas mains, no phones, no power, buildings down with injured people in them, and growing smoke., "The rescue that failed — disorganization, empty hydrants killed Janet Ray," 11 Oct. 2019 That work, which included placing plastic lines into the existing mains, required the removal of old valves., "“We came back, but I don’t feel safe,” Garcia said. “I want this to be fixed. I don’t want to go through this again.”," 30 Sep. 2019 The menu is a good size with appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers, flatbreads, fish and meat mains, great veggie sides, and fun kids’ dishes ($6). Joan Wilder,, "Sit by the fire, and savor Liv Creative Cuisine," 19 Feb. 2020 The mains, which are constructed of iron or high-pressure concrete, sit about six feet under the streets, according to the site. Rory Linnane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Water main break floods area near Hawley Road south of I-94," 28 Dec. 2019 The explosions occurred when a work crew shut down a gas main attached to a control line, forcing the system to identify a drop in pressure. Joey Garrison, USA TODAY, "'Flagrant indifference:' Gas company pleads guilty, will pay record $53M for deadly Massachusetts explosions," 26 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Don’t stress over the 'book' in book club The main goal of a book group is to have a meaningful discussion. Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "Start an online book club: How to pick the right read and host a virtual discussion on Zoom," 29 May 2020 Nissan, recently the main source of the group’s profits, resented the French government’s sway through a 15% stake in Renault. The Economist, "Back to basics The Renault-Nissan alliance hunkers down," 28 May 2020 Ten weeks ago, Shadowserver's main source of funding dried up. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, "Shadowserver, an Internet Guardian, Finds a Lifeline," 27 May 2020 Compassion, that supreme quality in a fiction writer, is a main source of Greenwell’s power. Sigrid Nunez, The New York Review of Books, "Sex and Sincerity," 27 May 2020 Ticket sales were the main source of revenue, and Ruth started paying dividends right away. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, "How Baseball Players Became Celebrities," 25 May 2020 Scores of people gathered around headstones all around them as a long line of cars moving bumper to bumper clogged San Antonio Street, the main east-west road through the cemetery. Sig Christenson,, "On Memorial Day, Anbar Marines ‘carry the barrel’," 25 May 2020 There have been concerns that the study’s main goal, originally based on changes in the 8-point score at day 15, was changed before the result was analyzed. Matthew Herper, STAT, "Covid-19 study details benefits of treatment with remdesivir, and also its limitations," 22 May 2020 The districts might experience even steeper revenue shortfalls if Cuyahoga County residents, laid off from their jobs due to the pandemic, cannot pay their property taxes, the main source of revenue for the schools. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, "Strongsville, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, North Royalton schools each hit with state funding cuts exceeding $1 million," 18 May 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'main.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of main


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for main


in sense 1, from Middle English, from Old English mǣgen; akin to Old High German magan strength, Old English magan to be able; in other senses, from main entry 2 or by shortening — more at may entry 1


Middle English, from Old English mǣgen-, from mǣgen strength

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Learn More about main

Time Traveler for main

Time Traveler

The first known use of main was before the 12th century

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Statistics for main

Last Updated

19 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Main.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for main


How to pronounce Main (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of main

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the largest pipe in a system of connected pipes
: the system of pipes or wires for electricity, gas, or water
: the place where electricity, gas, or water enters a building or room

English Language Learners Definition of main (Entry 2 of 2)

: most important
\ ˈmān How to pronounce main (audio) \

Kids Definition of main

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: first in size, rank, or importance : chief Go in the main entrance. What's the main reason?

Other Words from main

mainly adverb



Kids Definition of main (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : the chief part : essential point The new workers are in the main well trained.
2 : a principal line, tube, or pipe of a utility system water main gas main
4 : physical strength : force So they stood … both shoving with might and main— Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer

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More from Merriam-Webster on main

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for main

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with main

Spanish Central: Translation of main

Nglish: Translation of main for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of main for Arabic Speakers

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