Definition of major in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈmājər/


1 [attributive] Important, serious, or significant: the use of drugs is a major problem
More example sentences
  • One major obstacle in recruitment, however, is beyond the military's control.
  • It is the first major film the Star Wars actor, from Crieff, has made in the town where he got his first theatrical break.
  • The modern Games, and many other major sports festivals, follow a similar format.
crucial, vital, great, considerable, paramount, utmost, prime
informal serious
important, big, significant, weighty, crucial, key, sweeping, substantial
serious, radical, complicated, difficult
1.1Greater or more important; main: he got the major share of the spoils
More example sentences
  • Since then, 48 nations have now signed this treaty, including all the major industrialized countries.
  • Dealing with change is one of the major problems in Europe, if not the major one.
  • Huge demonstrations in the capital city of his major ally would not be good for the image.
greatest, best, finest, most important, chief, main, prime, principal, capital, cardinal, leading, star, foremost, outstanding, first-rate, preeminent, arch-
informal major league, big league
1.2(Of a surgical operation) serious or life-threatening: he had to undergo major surgery
More example sentences
  • In the future, the trend will be for shorter recovery periods after major operations.
  • Knee replacement is a major operation, and therefore, like all surgery, carries a degree of risk
  • Bertie underwent a major operation some weeks ago and has been recuperating since.
2 Music (Of a scale) having an interval of a semitone between the third and fourth degrees and the seventh and eighth degrees. Contrasted with minor.
Example sentences
  • The number of bells in a peal varies from three to 12, usually tuned to a diatonic major scale, or part of one.
  • They're not afraid of the occasional use of a major scale, or a long drawn out peaceful ambient break.
  • Bastien uses the little tune for the first five tones of the major scale.
2.1(Of an interval) equivalent to that between the tonic and another note of a major scale, and greater by a semitone than the corresponding minor interval.
Example sentences
  • The E-flat transposition (down a major sixth) easily can be accomplished by reading the part as if written in bass clef up one octave.
  • The tension generated throughout the work by the collision of major and minor thirds is left clearly unresolved in these closing bars.
2.2 [postpositive] (Of a key) based on a major scale, tending to produce a bright or joyful effect: Prelude in G Major
More example sentences
  • I can still remember the effect of his G major sonata, a decade after the concert.
  • The Symphony consists of only three movements - a pathetic Allegro in D minor, a highly original Scherzo in the same key, and a blissful Adagio in E major.
  • Brahms' Trio in B was the subject of the composer's re-write, following the composition and publication of his later trios in C major and C minor.
3 Logic (Of a term) occurring as the predicate in the conclusion of a categorical syllogism.
Example sentences
  • The argument is said to commit the fallacy of Illicit Process of the Major Term.
3.1(Of a premise) containing the major term in a categorical syllogism.
Example sentences
  • The multiple proofs of Cicero are collapsed into one Proof of the Reason, which functions as the major premise, while the minor premise serves as the Reason.
  • The second major premise of intelligent design is that life, especially Homo sapiens, is too complex to have just happened.
4British dated (Appended to a surname in some schools) indicating the elder of two brothers.
Example sentences
  • Brown major had a trick of bringing up unpleasant topics.


1An army officer of high rank, in particular (in the US Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps) an officer ranking above captain and below lieutenant colonel.
Shortening of sergeant major, formerly a high rank
Example sentences
  • One e-mail avowed that too many majors and lieutenant colonels flounder in their first joint assignments.
  • It was a letter signed by a brigadier and a major of the Sudanese Army.
  • His colleagues, a major, warrant officer and another corporal, were killed.
2 Music A major key, interval, or scale.
Example sentences
  • The first modulates from the tonic key and concludes with a cadence in a related key, usually the dominant for pieces in the major, the relative major for pieces in the minor.
  • By contrast, almost all of the melodies here are built on the major, the most boring of scales.
  • A two-bar episode leads to the soprano middle entry in the relative major.
2.1 (Major) Bell-ringing A system of change-ringing using eight bells.
3North American A student’s principal subject or course of study.
Example sentences
  • They are required to have a college diploma at least, and their majors in universities must be related to law or psychology.
  • The individualized major in business administration provides the opportunity for a broad survey of business subjects.
  • It is no surprise that Cornell is offering majors in disciplines so important to the wine industry.
3.1 [often with modifier] A student specializing in a specified subject: a math major
More example sentences
  • So I said that she had previously gone to the class for the undergraduate majors, but this one was for the graduate students.
  • All majors in honors must complete at least one semester of study abroad in a French-speaking country.
  • He's also teaching mathematics to non math majors at my old alma mater.
4A major world organization, company, or competition: it’s not unreasonable to believe someone can win all four majors
More example sentences
  • So it is that, while Faldo outnumbers him six to five in terms of majors won, it is the man from Pedrena whom history will anoint the more significant.
  • Most of the low-cost airlines leave the majority of business travelers to the majors.
  • I never thought I'd be in a position to win all four majors.
4.1 (the majors) The major leagues.
Example sentences
  • And once relievers reach the majors, hitters generally get only one look at them per game.
  • Davenport well remembers his first skipper in the majors - and a fine manager he was.
  • The Redbirds have allowed the fewest home runs in the majors and the second lowest walk total in the NL.
5A person of full legal age.
6 Logic A major term or premise.
7 Bridge short for major suit.
Example sentences
  • The Americans used more familiar methods: five-card majors and a 16-18 1NT with weak Two-bids in three suits.
  • He figured out that North must have had plenty of strength in both majors, and a singleton or even a void in diamonds.


[no object] (major in) North American & Australian/New Zealand
Specialize in (a particular subject) at a college or university: I was trying to decide if I should major in drama or English
More example sentences
  • Madden graduated from Buffalo State University, where he majored in art education.
  • In Saudi Arabia, nearly one in five undergraduates majors in Islamic studies.
  • I also had four students who would be majoring in art education in college.


Middle English: from Latin, comparative of magnus 'great'; perhaps influenced by French majeur.

  • Latin major means ‘greater’ from magnus ‘great’ ( see magnify), a sense still found in old-fashioned schools where ‘Smith major’ might be used to label the older of two brothers. The military rank is found from the late 16th century, while the sense ‘serious, excessive’ as in a major foul-up dates only from the 1950s. The mayor (Middle English) of a place, the title majesty (Middle English), and the majority (mid 16th century) all get their names from the same source.

Words that rhyme with major

gauger, golden-ager, old-stager, pager, rampager, sergeant major, stager, wager

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: ma·jor

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