ma·​jor | \ ˈmā-jər How to pronounce major (audio) \

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 How to pronounce Major (audio) \

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

Especially when the space is crying for a major project, like retiling your floors or bathroom and kitchen walls. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "You'd Never Guess These are Peel and Stick Tiles," 4 Mar. 2019 There are 66 major projects underway now in the central part of the city, from South Lake Union to Sodo, up from 65 six months prior, according to a twice-yearly report released Tuesday by the Downtown Seattle Association. Mike Rosenberg, The Seattle Times, "Seattle construction still booming and won’t end anytime soon," 19 Feb. 2019 Catch-22 is his first major television project since, and Clooney tripled his duty as an executive producer and director of two episodes. Maggie Maloney, Town & Country, "The First Trailer for George Clooney's New Series Catch-22 Is Finally Here," 13 Feb. 2019 In Europe, major renewable energy projects are already starting to take root without direct subsidies. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Climate and energy news in 2018 actually wasn’t all bad," 1 Jan. 2019 Around the same time, Uber settled a major lawsuit with Waymo, which had accused Uber of stealing its proprietary technology. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "The good, the bad, and the ugly of self-driving cars in 2018," 27 Dec. 2018 Starting with the 2020 Games in Tokyo, the IOC made major changes to the format and framework of the Olympics to allow for the inclusion of more sports. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "These Are the New Sports We May See at the 2024 Summer Olympics," 27 Feb. 2019 North Seattle College is in a Northgate neighborhood where major changes are coming, Durkan noted. Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times, "State of the City: Durkan praises Seattle snow response, touts free ORCA passes," 20 Feb. 2019 But now that Prince Harry is starting a family of his own—the Duchess of Sussex is reportedly due in April with their first child—a major change is eminent. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Prince William and Prince Harry Will Reportedly Split Their Royal Households "Within Weeks"," 19 Feb. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That means this romantic gold and silver dress, which is giving off *major* princess vibes, is perfect for this water sign. Alanna Greco, Seventeen, "Exactly What to Wear to Prom, According to Your Sign," 11 Mar. 2019 Royal Dutch Shell PLC has said that peak demand could come as soon as 2025, while U.S. oil majors Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. don’t foresee a peak. Christopher Alessi, WSJ, "BP: Renewables and Natural Gas to Dominate Energy Growth," 14 Feb. 2019 Guyger's intended major was criminology and criminal justice, Syed said. Ryan Tarinelli, Fox News, "Lawyer: Firing of officer who killed neighbor is premature," 25 Sep. 2018 New York City had alleged that the oil majors created a nuisance by actively promoting oil use for decades, even after they were presented with significant and reliable information showing that catastrophic effects from climate change would result. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "Judge says climate issues the purview of federal government, tosses NYC lawsuit," 20 July 2018 The 31-year-old Goldschmidt has made six straight All-Star Games — Mike Trout and Salvador Perez are the only other players in the majors with a current streak that long. Warren Mayes, The Seattle Times, "Cardinals hope Goldschmidt can lead them back to playoffs," 5 Feb. 2019 Cabrera split last season, his 12th in the majors, with the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies. Stephen Hawkins, The Seattle Times, "AP source: Rangers, Cabrera agree to $3.5M, 1-year deal," 22 Jan. 2019 Nonetheless, Kotstay lasted 17 seasons in the majors and earned more than $50 million in salary. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "Baseball Wants Kyler Murray. But He Wants Football.," 15 Jan. 2019 Federer has won 20 majors, the most ever in men’s tennis. Tom Perrotta, WSJ, "Andy Murray to Retire From Tennis This Season, Citing Constant Hip Pain," 10 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The share of college students who major in history has fallen by two-thirds since the early 1970s. Jason Willick, WSJ, "‘How to Hide an Empire’ Review: The Greater United States," 13 Mar. 2019 Lauren McCluskey was majoring in communication and was excited to graduate next spring, said her mother, a professor at Washington State University, adding that her daughter was a Washington state high jump champion in high school and loved to sing. Lindsay Whitehurst, The Seattle Times, "Records: Suspect in Utah university killing was sex offender," 24 Oct. 2018 At the start of 2017, Tati (full name Tatiana Rodriguez) was majoring in journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and working as a columnist for The Daily Illini. Matt Harvey, Chicago Reader, "Hip-Hop / Music / Performing Arts Twenty-year-old poet and rapper Tati wants to help you make your own love potion," 12 June 2018 McDonagh, who played four years of hockey and two years of field hockey at Reading High as well as lacrosse, is majoring in architecture and the environment. Allen Lessels,, "McDonagh plays lacrosse for the fun of it," 8 June 2018 According to his Stetson athletics biography, Gilbert is majoring in business systems and analytics. Stephen Ruiz,, "As Stetson locks up Super Regional berth, ace looms as first-round draft pick," 3 June 2018 Evans, a 2014 Berea High School graduate, is majoring in nursing. Rich Heileman,, "Middleburg Heights sets Annual Food Drive: Around The Town," 4 May 2018 Her 15-year-old sister, Camille, is also now majoring in math at MBU. Christina Capatides, CBS News, "She was just offered $2.3M in scholarships to Ph.D. programs and she's only 17," 30 Mar. 2018 Simply put, more students are majoring in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and business, and fewer in the humanities. Jeffrey J. Selingo, Washington Post, "You got into the college of your dreams. But will you actually go there?," 29 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

Adjective, Noun, and Verb

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

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Statistics for major

Last Updated

21 Mar 2019

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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 How to pronounce major (audio) \

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 How to pronounce major (audio) \

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).


to boil down or concentrate

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