\ 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


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

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has only two engineers conducting field inspections of the state’s 21,714.5 miles of gas main. Nathaniel Penn, Popular Mechanics, "The Day the Town Blew Up," 3 June 2019 Cory Barr and injured 15, occurred on the corner of Main and Bristol streets after a contractor struck a gas main, causing a leak. Paul Gores, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bank of Sun Prairie starts relief fund for those affected by gas explosion," 12 July 2018 Quirky entrées include Jerusalem artichoke with yolk and burnt pear, while mains feature swordfish with pickled mussels, zucchini stem, and kelp butter. Sophie Davies, Condé Nast Traveler, "29 Best Restaurants in Sydney," 14 Mar. 2018 Starters such as the muscular blue crab beignets hold their own with malt vinegar dressing, while the turtle bolognese is a standout on the list of mains. Paul Oswell, Condé Nast Traveler, "21 Best Restaurants in New Orleans," 28 Feb. 2018 Buy Photo The Philadelphia Water Department says breaks in 48-inch mains — like one that flooded Center City on Tuesday — are rare, but not unheard of. Joseph A. Gambardello,, "Recent 48-inch water main breaks in Philadelphia," 3 July 2018 The explosion, which injured 15 and killed Barr, occurred on the corner of Main and Bristol streets after a gas main was struck by a contractor, which caused a leak. Taylor Palmby, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "J.J. Watt donates $10,000 to support family of firefighter killed in Sun Prairie explosion," 11 July 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 that rained debris around the downtown area and ignited vehicles parked in the area. Todd Richmond,, "Firefighter killed, a dozen injured in gas explosion and fire near Madison, Wisconsin," 11 July 2018 Sketches are delivered, petites mains are stitching about, and Lagerfeld is watching over it all with a discerning eye, signing off on each couture creation. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Watch the Trailer for 7 Days Out, the New Netflix Series That Goes Inside a Chanel Couture Show and Other Landmark Events," 11 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Some city officials say a main reason for the problems is the state doesn't have the staffing or resources to do the job. Russ Wiles, azcentral, "Sales taxes go uncollected, businesses slip through cracks under Arizona's business-friendly efforts," 13 June 2019 Analysts pointed to a slowdown in rent growth as the main reason for the reduction. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Homebuilding tanks in San Diego County," 13 June 2019 Residents’ main concern is the environmental impact., "Confetti mess left after pop-up race in St. Johns leaves residents frustrated," 10 June 2019 The main reason: Cowen sees lower demand for the Model 3 this year and next. New York Times, "Tesla, Facing Setbacks and Skeptics, Tries to Get Back on Course," 10 June 2019 The main concern among state and local health officials is per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), chemicals that remain in the environment and the human body and can build up over time, Sawyer said. Jesse Leavenworth,, "Firefighting foam spills into Farmington River in Windsor; people cautioned against contact, eating fish," 9 June 2019 The main concern for the Browns and their fans should be keeping the star receiver healthy. Terry Pluto,, "Cleveland Browns & Odell Beckham: What really matters? – Terry Pluto," 7 June 2019 But the main reason for the revival of interest is probably the determination of a group of scientists. The Economist, "Magic mushrooms, illegal in most places, may have therapeutic uses," 7 June 2019 Windler was one of the main reasons Belmont finished 26-5 this past season. Keith Pompey,, "Carsen Edwards, Dylan Windler to headline predraft workouts for Sixers," 4 June 2019

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

15 Jun 2019

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 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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with main

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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