\ ˈmān How to pronounce main (audio) \

Definition of main

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : physical strength : force used in the phrase with might and main The next instant we were away down the river, clawing with might and main to keep out of the woods.— Mark Twain
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 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 Elliott said those pipes are just a fraction of the cost of a sewer main, which can cost $1 million per mile just to install. Dennis Pillion |, al, "Black Belt sewage woes: Feds give $4.9M for rural wastewater project," 14 Mar. 2021 That is more than 10,000 connections, meaning water lines or pipes connected to a distribution supply main, with most serving multiple people, Associated Press reported. Marlene Lenthang, ABC News, "Water slowly returns to Jackson, Mississippi residents but boil order remains," 5 Mar. 2021 Bernard Edelman, an attorney representing FER-PAL, said a temporary main is laid along the roadway to assure continued service to customers during the project. Steve Sadin,, "Robots make Waukegan water main work less intrusive, more effective," 19 Oct. 2020 Build to last 80 years, the new main is built inside the old one. Unlike similar projects in the past, motorists would see a dug up road and piles of dirt the length of the construction. Steve Sadin,, "Robots make Waukegan water main work less intrusive, more effective," 19 Oct. 2020 Residents of seven subdivisions near Madisonville were cautioned Tuesday night to boil tap water before drinking it because a Faubourg Water System contractor broke an 8-inch main near Black River Bridge. Drew Broach | Staff Writer,, "Seven subdivisions near Madisonville advised to boil water before drinking," 22 Dec. 2020 The water bureau stated the pipe is a cast iron four-inch main installed in the 1950s. oregonlive, "Water main break closes section of SE Market at 122nd," 17 Dec. 2020 Grateful to the State Board of Canvassers in the main for doing their job. NBC News, "How Trump's legal battles to overturn the election undermine the Black vote," 24 Nov. 2020 This is the savory tart to end all savory tarts, the dish that sets a new (high) bar for what a celebratory vegetarian main should look like. Washington Post, "Vegetarian and vegan main dishes to anchor your Thanksgiving menu," 20 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The National Weather Service said the main threat is damaging winds, though a brief weak tornado cannot be ruled out, mainly along and south of the Ohio River. Sarah Brookbank, The Enquirer, "Cincinnati weather: Storms expected Thursday, showers will continue through the weekend," 8 Apr. 2021 While the wedding didn’t take place last summer because of Covid, both the main and guesthouses accommodated family members and friends who needed somewhere to quarantine at various points during the past year. Jaci Conry, WSJ, "A Seaside Mansion Finds a Second Life as a ‘Family Home’," 7 Apr. 2021 Filet mignon and sea bass are on the menu for the main, accompanied by mashed potatoes and vegetables, with peach cobbler and apple pie with ice cream the dessert. Ben Morse, CNN, "Dustin Johnson to serve pigs in a blanket, filet mignon at Masters Champions Dinner," 6 Apr. 2021 The main threat from any strong storms will be large hail. Star Tribune, "Quiet, Warm Weather For Easter Sunday - Heavier Rain For The Work Week," 3 Apr. 2021 Any study of memory is, in the main, a study of its frailty. David Kortava, The New Yorker, "A Neuroscientist’s Poignant Study of How We Forget Most Things in Life," 31 Mar. 2021 Elsewhere, the main threat is widespread damaging winds and large hail. Daniel Manzo, ABC News, "New severe weather threat takes aim at central and eastern US," 27 Mar. 2021 Damaging winds are expected to be the main threat along a possible line of storms late in the afternoon or early in the evening. Washington Post, "Severe thunderstorms possible in D.C. area Sunday for first time this year," 26 Mar. 2021 In the main, though, indications are that this was a mentally unstable person who, having shown signs of flying into violent rages without provocation, flew into just such a rage to catastrophic effect. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "After the Boulder Mass Shooting Comes the Debate about Motive," 24 Mar. 2021

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

17 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Main.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Apr. 2021.

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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 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
3 : high seas
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

Nglish: Translation of main for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of main for Arabic Speakers

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