\ˈmān \

Definition of main 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1 : physical strength : force used in the phrase with might and main

2a : mainland

b : high sea

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

5a : mainmast

b : mainsail



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, 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


My radio runs either off batteries or off the mains. Turn off the water at the mains.


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

Schulze said a 4-inch gas main was struck by a contractor, which caused the gas leak. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Sun Prairie firefighter killed by explosion that destroyed his own bar," 11 July 2018 Most Roma do not have access to mains water, the report said. Washington Post, "Survey shows unemployment, poverty among W. Balkans’ Roma," 9 May 2018 WE Energies spokeswoman Amy Jahns said workers for a private contractor punctured a 4-inch gas main, causing a leak that resulted in the explosion. Christopher Brito, CBS News, "J.J. Watt quietly donates $10K to fallen Wisconsin firefighter's family," 12 July 2018 WE Energies spokeswoman Amy Jahns said workers for a contractor apparently punctured a 4-inch natural gas main, sending gas leaking into a building ahead of the explosion. NBC News, "Sun Prairie, Wisconsin explosion: Firefighter dies after natural gas main erupts," 11 July 2018 Authorities have said a leak from a natural gas main struck by a contractor preceded the blast. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Subcontractor was ‘on site’ ahead of fatal Sun Prairie blast," 12 July 2018 Water service was off for two dozen customers after a 6-inch main broke Thursday in DeKalb County, officials said. Chelsea Prince, ajc, "DeKalb water main fixed after earlier break cut service for dozens," 28 June 2018 Authorities have said a crew punctured a natural gas main in downtown Sun Prairie on Tuesday, resulting in an explosion that damaged five buildings and killed Sun Prairie Fire Department Capt. Todd Richmond,, "Communications subcontractor 'on site' ahead of fatal Wisconsin blast that killed firefighter, injured 11," 12 July 2018 An explosion rocked the downtown area of a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, after a contractor struck a natural gas main Monday, injuring at least two firefighters and a police officer, authorities said. Todd Richmond, The Seattle Times, "Explosion rocks Wisconsin town; at least 3 hurt," 10 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The route to the top is a steep climb on the Barnabe Fire Road, located across from the main park entrance on the north side of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (a 6-mile loop). Tom Stienstra,, "’Tis the season for ‘Dancing with Fog’," 12 July 2018 To get to the Pediatric Emergency Center, patients should go through the main emergency entrance, Levasseur said. Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press, "Beaumont to open new Pediatric Emergency Center in Royal Oak," 12 July 2018 About a dozen of those activists were students at the Steel City Academy charter school in Gary, a new school where the student body is largely opposed because the facility is less than 100 feet from the school’s main entrance. Gregory Tejeda, Post-Tribune, "Gary recycling facility gets 6-month permit extension; protests continue," 12 July 2018 Restaurants would be required to post notice at their main entrance if their license has been suspended or revoked. Mikaela Porter, Courant Community, "Proposed Changes To Streamline West Hartford's Entertainment, Food Truck Ordinances Go To Public Hearing Tuesday," 12 July 2018 Plans to build a three-level parking structure and a new main entrance on Vista Way were approved this week for Tri-City Medical Center. Phil Diehl,, "Parking structure approved for Tri-City Medical Center," 11 July 2018 Changes to the school's main entrance likely will include a larger security vestibule to funnel visitors and students through an area enclosed in bullet-resistant glass before they are granted access to the rest of the campus. Shelby Webb, Houston Chronicle, "Santa Fe ISD trustees to vote on high school security upgrades," 10 July 2018 The piece honoring the Coventry native, who was executed as a spy by the British at age 21 during the American Revolution, stands near the museum’s castle-like main entrance. Susan Dunne,, "The Sculptures Outside The Wadsworth, Explained," 9 July 2018 Two posters were glued to the LGBT center’s main entrance. Craig Sailor, The Seattle Times, "White-supremacist posters in Tacoma urge reporting of undocumented residents," 4 July 2018

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


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

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Statistics for main

Last Updated

19 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for main

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

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More Definitions for main



English Language Learners Definition of main

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the largest pipe in a system of connected pipes

the mains : 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 \

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

3 : high seas

4 : physical strength : force So they stood … both shoving with might and main— Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer

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Comments on main

What made you want to look up main? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


lying above or upon

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