ma·​jor | \ˈmā-jər \

Definition of major 

(Entry 1 of 4)

1 : greater in dignity, rank, importance, or interest one of the major poets

2 : greater in number, quantity, or extent the major part of his work

3 : of full legal age major children

4a : notable or conspicuous in effect or scope : considerable a major improvement

b : prominent or significant in size, amount, or degree earned some major cash

5 : involving grave risk : serious a major illness

6 : of or relating to a subject of academic study chosen as a field of specialization The student's major field is geology.

7a : having half steps between the third and fourth and the seventh and eighth degrees major scale

b : based on a major scale major key

c : equivalent to the distance between the keynote and another tone (except the fourth and fifth) of a major scale major third

d : having a major third above the root major triad



Definition of major (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : a person who has attained majority

2a : one that is superior in rank, importance, size, or performance economic power of the oil majors

b : a major musical interval, scale, key, or mode

3 : a commissioned officer in the army, air force, or marine corps ranking above a captain and below a lieutenant colonel

4a : an academic subject chosen as a field of specialization

b : a student specializing in such a field a history major

5 majors plural : major league baseball used with the

6 : any of several high-level tournaments in professional golf or tennis


majored; majoring; majors

Definition of major (Entry 3 of 4)

intransitive verb

: to pursue an academic major majored in English


biographical name
Ma·​jor | \ˈmā-jər \

Definition of Major (Entry 4 of 4)

Sir John 1943–     British prime minister (1990–97)

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Examples of major in a Sentence


He's one of the major figures in 19th-century U.S. history. Researchers have announced a major advance in the treatment of cancer. She played a major role in the negotiations. No major changes are expected. The grant covered a major part of the cost. Butter is one of the major ingredients in the recipe. None of his health problems are major. He suffered a major heart attack.


He chose history as his major and French as his minor. What was your major in college? In college, he was a history major. a club for physics majors
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Thankfully, major credit card companies offer incredible cash back options, especially around the holidays. Taylor Mead, House Beautiful, "Everything Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's Rachel Brosnahan Learned From Hosting Her First Holiday Party," 7 Dec. 2018 But what will this mean for the future as Victoria's Secret heads into 2019 with a new CEO combatting negative backlash and calls for major change? Alyssa Hardy, Teen Vogue, "The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show Had Its Lowest Ratings Ever," 3 Dec. 2018 Getty ImagesDia Dipasupil In the space of just a few weeks, Hilary Duff has gone through some major life changes. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Hilary Duff Swapped Her Ombré Hair for a Kylie Jenner-esque Platinum Blonde Makeover," 27 Nov. 2018 The three major indexes all fell more than 5 percent between Wednesday and Thursday, and tech shares like Apple, Alphabet and Netflix failed to rebound after posting steep losses. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Silicon Valley may have a Saudi Arabia problem," 12 Oct. 2018 Meanwhile, Samsung is planning a major upgrade for its 10th anniversary flagship phones next year, including 5G network speeds, bigger screens and six cameras. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Black Friday is the busiest time of year for professional line sitters," 21 Nov. 2018 Not only was Graham given a bigger platform, but the conversation about size inclusivity in fashion also got a major signal boost. Michaela Dosamantes, Glamour, "Ashley Graham’s Been Having Difficult Conversations for Two Decades. Now People Are Listening.," 19 Nov. 2018 By 1959, those in South Africa were resistant to at least 15 major pesticides. Rob Dunn, Discover Magazine, "Our Attempts to Eradicate Insects are Just Making them Resistant to Pesticides," 16 Nov. 2018 On climate, as on most major political issues, the Democratic Party is moving left and the GOP is moving right, a trend the midterm elections only reinforced. David Roberts, Vox, "After the midterms, US climate politics are even more polarized. Here’s how Dems can move forward.," 12 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

After graduating as a theater major from Spelman College in Atlanta, Thimes remained in the South for a number of years until returning home to St. Louis to raise her family. Howard Reich,, "Singer Denise Thimes puts down roots in Chicago," 5 July 2018 Winner, Special Reportage Prize: Tahia Farhin Haque Tahia Farhin Haque is based in Bangladesh and was a biochemistry major until receiving a full scholarship to a photography school in Dhaka. Sarah Nechamkin, The Cut, "Meet the Finalists for the New Vanguard Photography Prize," 2 July 2018 Bock was a business major, a school spokesman said. Perry Vandell, azcentral, "Autopsy: NAU student died by suicide, struggled with depression," 21 June 2018 Indiana at Florida International, Sept. 1 For Indiana, a win at a mid-major Florida International won’t make its season. Kenzie Winstead, The Courier-Journal, "Ranking the 5 biggest games on Indiana's 2018 football schedule," 19 June 2018 Lamb is a marketing major at Kansas State University. Joe Robertson, Robert A. Cronkleton, Katy Bergen And Laura Bauer, kansascity, "'Inseparable' Olathe East grads' lives shatter as 3 die in Lake of Ozarks boat crash | The Kansas City Star," 20 May 2018 Amanda Capuano Mother McAuley High School, Chicago Capuano, who lives in Chicago, plans to attend Loyola University in the fall as a nursing major. Donna Vickroy And Susan Demar Lafferty, Daily Southtown, "Class of 2018: A look at some of the Southland's extraordinary high school graduates," 19 May 2018 Black women are America’s most educated and entrepreneurial demographic and that includes Meghan, who earned her degree at Northwestern University as a double major in theater and international relations., "Yep, Meghan Markle Is A Black Woman," 15 May 2018 O’Hagan is a math major who is on track to graduate in a few weeks. David Driver, Laurel Leader, "Longtime teammates shine on the diamond for Catholic University," 3 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Back at Harvard, Molly Nolan, a senior majoring in history and literature, had become accustomed to showing up a few minutes late to activities. Melissa Korn, WSJ, "What Time Is It at Berkeley? Ten Minutes Past Reality," 3 Dec. 2018 But here's the real question that remains: Is Jack majoring in criminal justice? Jennifer Aldrich, Country Living, "Is Danny Reagan's Son on 'Blue Bloods' Leaving the Show?," 16 Nov. 2018 Dolan, 21, is a senior at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, double-majoring in political science and Hispanic studies. Erik Lacitis, The Seattle Times, "Why are the oldest Americans three times as likely to vote as millennials? Two voters, ages 90 and 21, offer clues," 7 Nov. 2018 And there’s room to ask why some people only get politically engaged in the run-up to major elections when there’s always work to be done. Lily Herman, Teen Vogue, "Taylor Swift's Political Instagram Post Is a Sign of the Post–Brett Kavanaugh Times," 8 Oct. 2018 In 1948 George graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Tufts College (now University), majoring in biology and chemistry, minoring in physics., "Deaths in South Florida: 7/13," 13 July 2018 Manuel, majoring in communications, twice has been a Pac-12 academic honoree and is a CoSIDA first-team Academic All-American. Jack White, USA TODAY, "Olympian and Stanford swimmer Simone Manuel wins Honda Award as top female collegiate athlete," 25 June 2018 The event is fitting for Markle, a former actress who starred in Suits and majored in theater at Northwestern University. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Queen Just Invited Meghan Markle on Their First Public Engagement Together," 4 June 2018 Yet virtually all of them matriculated to college, with 30 percent at top 100 national universities, and 85 percent majoring or minoring in computer science. Christina Lewis, The Root, "Change Your Life by Celebrating Failure," 19 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'major.' 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 major


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1616, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1913, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for major


Middle English maiour, from Latin major, comparative of magnus great, large — more at much


see major entry 1


see major entry 1

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Statistics for major

Last Updated

12 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for major

The first known use of major was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for major



English Language Learners Definition of major

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: very important

: large in number, amount, or extent

: very serious or bad



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

: a military officer in the army, air force, or marines who ranks above a captain

: the main subject studied by a college or university student

: a student who has a specified main subject of study


ma·​jor | \ˈmā-jər \

Kids Definition of major

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : great or greater in number, quantity, rank, or importance A new car is a major expense.

2 : of or relating to a musical scale of eight notes with half steps between the third and fourth and between the seventh and eighth notes and with whole steps between all the others



Kids Definition of major (Entry 2 of 2)

: a commissioned officer in the army, air force, or marine corps ranking above a captain


ma·​jor | \ˈmā-jər \

Medical Definition of major 

: involving grave risk : serious a major illness a major surgical procedure — compare minor

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Legal Definition of major 

: a person who has attained majority — compare minor

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More from Merriam-Webster on major

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with major

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for major

Spanish Central: Translation of major

Nglish: Translation of major for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of major for Arabic Speakers

Comments on major

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


a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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