Definition of major in English:



  • 1attributive Important, serious, or significant.

    ‘the use of drugs is a major problem’
    • ‘The modern Games, and many other major sports festivals, follow a similar format.’
    • ‘The health fair in February was the second major project the group has undertaken.’
    • ‘This once great festival has been slipping for several years and it really does need a major shake-up.’
    • ‘Only one major EU nation will allow unrestricted immigration immediately.’
    • ‘This family has made a major contribution to our social, cultural and historic heritage.’
    • ‘On the other hand, at the regional level, there has yet to be an agreement among Africa's major powers on a common strategy.’
    • ‘He spoke of the main issues now causing major problems for the fishing industry.’
    • ‘Two major national marine strategy documents have been produced in the last ten years.’
    • ‘This important book is a major contribution to an understanding of British politics and the way it developed.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the added height of the curb under his truck was just enough to snag a major power line.’
    • ‘One major obstacle in recruitment, however, is beyond the military's control.’
    • ‘Human flights to Mars will likely be the next major milestone in humankind's expansion into the solar system.’
    • ‘A profit warning in August caused a major fall in the share price.’
    • ‘It is the first major film the Star Wars actor, from Crieff, has made in the town where he got his first theatrical break.’
    • ‘More than 27,000 homes were plunged into darkness by a major power failure.’
    • ‘The second major plus about Kerry's victory on Sunday was the quality of the football they played.’
    • ‘There have been three major deals in the last year.’
    • ‘His deal may also call for a major participation in another significant revenue steam: home video.’
    • ‘During her speech, Mrs Hewitt also launched a major consultation on new powers to tackle dodgy doorstep salesmen.’
    • ‘Rail chiefs warned of major disruption to services on the East Coast main line following the derailment.’
    crucial, vital, great, considerable, paramount, utmost, prime, extensive
    important, big, significant, weighty, crucial, key, sweeping, substantial
    serious, radical, complicated, difficult
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Greater or more important; main.
      ‘he got the major share of the spoils’
      • ‘Shares in major airlines and travel-related companies fell particularly sharply.’
      • ‘Cancer is the second major cause of death, after heart disease, in the city.’
      • ‘There are significant departments at most major banks that cater to this trade.’
      • ‘Chris Smith is well aware that terrestrial broadcasting still commands the major share of viewing.’
      • ‘The three major banks all reported record profits this year.’
      • ‘Since then, 48 nations have now signed this treaty, including all the major industrialized countries.’
      • ‘Shares of the major housebuilders have hardly moved at all since the report came out.’
      • ‘Dealing with change is one of the major problems in Europe, if not the major one.’
      • ‘The major share of the party's vote came from two provinces.’
      • ‘The right wing election agenda shared by the three major parties can be thrown off course by the fights over war and pensions.’
      • ‘On all major roads leading into this town are signs boldly identifying Skipton as an historic market town.’
      • ‘We have the highest economic growth of any of the world's major industrialized nations.’
      • ‘Agriculture is still the major industry and the main employer throughout the country.’
      • ‘Heart disease and strokes are major causes of death and ill health in the Western Health Board region.’
      • ‘A professional video conference is not exactly cheap and this makes the major share of the cost.’
      • ‘Austria shares the major findings of the Commission in its Regular Report on Bulgaria.’
      • ‘Accidents, the major cause of deaths in Kerala, can certainly be prevented with broader roads.’
      • ‘All authorities say now that the major part of the diet should be based around whole plant foods.’
      • ‘The four major theoretical approaches to the field have been realism, liberalism, Marxism, and domestic politics.’
      • ‘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, top-tier, notable, eminent, pre-eminent, arch-, supreme, uppermost
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    2. 1.2 (of a surgical operation) serious or life-threatening.
      ‘he had to undergo major surgery’
      • ‘I had a major operation so I was a bit low, but within a day of surgery we were laughing and joking.’
      • ‘In the future, the trend will be for shorter recovery periods after major operations.’
      • ‘A visit to a colposcopy clinic can produce more anxiety than a major surgical procedure.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 2Music
    (of a scale) having intervals of a semitone between the third and fourth, and seventh and eighth degrees.

    Contrasted with minor
    • ‘They're not afraid of the occasional use of a major scale, or a long drawn out peaceful ambient break.’
    • ‘Every student in the program plays twelve major scales by memory to qualify for one of those three performing bands.’
    • ‘Musical literacy requires knowledge of major and minor scales, key signatures, intervals and triad spelling.’
    • ‘The number of bells in a peal varies from three to 12, usually tuned to a diatonic major scale, or part of one.’
    • ‘Bastien uses the little tune for the first five tones of the major scale.’
    1. 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.
      ‘C to E is a major third’
      • ‘The tension generated throughout the work by the collision of major and minor thirds is left clearly unresolved in these closing bars.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 2.2postpositive (of a key) based on a major scale, tending to produce a bright or joyful effect.
      ‘Prelude in G Major’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I can still remember the effect of his G major sonata, a decade after the concert.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 3British dated (appended to a surname in public schools) indicating the elder of two brothers.

    • ‘Brown major had a trick of bringing up unpleasant topics.’
  • 4Logic
    (of a term) occurring as the predicate in the conclusion of a categorical syllogism.

    • ‘The argument is said to commit the fallacy of Illicit Process of the Major Term.’
    1. 4.1 (of a premise) containing the major term in a categorical syllogism.
      • ‘The second major premise of intelligent design is that life, especially Homo sapiens, is too complex to have just happened.’
      • ‘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.’
      crucial, vital, great, considerable, paramount, utmost, prime, extensive
      View synonyms


  • 1A rank of officer in the army and the US air force, above captain and below lieutenant colonel.

    • ‘One e-mail avowed that too many majors and lieutenant colonels flounder in their first joint assignments.’
    • ‘The head of the corps would have the title of colonel but receive the lower pay of an army major.’
    • ‘It was a letter signed by a brigadier and a major of the Sudanese Army.’
    • ‘While the generals debated how to mandate a revolution, the captains and majors quietly implemented one.’
    • ‘She has claimed that she would never have made it to the top of British politics without the help of the former army major.’
    • ‘The army major has seen his daughter for 12 days in the past two years.’
    • ‘Now the majors have grown into generals in positions of immense power and the complexion of the army has changed drastically.’
    • ‘We were frightened of absconding because we thought the major might have us court-martialled.’
    • ‘Taking the major to their headquarters, the French general began to question him.’
    • ‘On Thursday, the senator agreed to lift his hold on promotions of 127 Air Force captains and majors.’
    • ‘A retired British Army major is planning to offer refuge to companies sick of government meddling in the Web.’
    • ‘One morning our door swung open, and the room was suddenly filled with a brigadier, two majors, and our own commanding officer.’
    • ‘They have a son Marcus, an Army major with the Highlanders regiment and a daughter, Susan, who lives in Devon.’
    • ‘The patient was an army major who, at the age of 90, had long since retired from her military nursing career.’
    • ‘A resident of Canada, married to an army major, she has contented herself with raising six children.’
    • ‘The major invites me to join him and a few other officers for lunch, typically delicious Army fare.’
    • ‘Most of the soldiers in the queue were grizzled captains and majors.’
    • ‘He was an ordinary kind of guy who was drafted into the Army as an enlisted man and ended the war as a major.’
    • ‘The officer in front, a major, bent and jabbed him with his swagger stick.’
    • ‘His colleagues, a major, warrant officer and another corporal, were killed.’
    1. 1.1with modifier An officer in charge of a section of band instruments.
      ‘a trumpet major’
      • ‘Do you want to become a trumpet major at a Canadian university or school of music?’
      • ‘In the foreground, a vast crowd marches in front of a military band led by a drum major whose face is recognizable as that of Emile Littre.’
      • ‘During the service, the Ambassador delivered a message of thanks from his country, and a pipe major played a lament at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.’
  • 2Music
    A major key, interval, or scale.

    • ‘A two-bar episode leads to the soprano middle entry in the relative major.’
    • ‘To avoid unnecessary chromaticism, scales other than the major are based on different sol-fa notes.’
    • ‘By contrast, almost all of the melodies here are built on the major, the most boring of scales.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the next pair of variations, we return to the major, with a lively anapest rhythm.’
    1. 2.1Bell-ringing A system of change-ringing using eight bells.
  • 3A major organization or competition.

    ‘the majors have swept up the smaller independent companies in licensing deals’
    ‘it's not unreasonable to believe someone can win all four majors’
    with modifier ‘the oil majors had a profit bonanza’
    • ‘Most of the low-cost airlines leave the majority of business travelers to the majors.’
    • ‘Weir, the US Masters champion, is still favourite to collect his second major of the year.’
    • ‘I never thought I'd be in a position to win all four majors.’
    • ‘This year the majors are on courses that will suit me.’
    • ‘DiMarco now joins Colin Montgomerie as the only two players to lose two play-offs without winning a major.’
    • ‘After his low-key build-up to the season's first major, he would be excused another near miss.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He would also become the first player to win the season's first two majors since Nicklaus in 1972.’
    • ‘And that added pressure - we have four majors a year, but only one Olympiad every four years.’
    • ‘With his first Open, he became only the fourth golfer to win all four majors.’
    • ‘The news from the two oil service majors comes amid a fairly heavy week for corporate news from Scotland's mid-caps.’
    • ‘The Greens are on a roll now, and that's because because the public want change, real change, and the majors weren't listening.’
    • ‘Player is one of five golfers to win all four majors.’
    • ‘Oil majors last night warned that petrol prices might have to rise as fears of oil market disruption drove up crude prices by more than $3.50 per barrel.’
    • ‘It is, of course, in the majors that Monty's emotional frailties have been most exposed.’
    • ‘Now he is competing among the best of the world's golfers in the second major of the 2001 calendar.’
    • ‘Players, most notably Tiger Woods, have been asked to boycott the season's first major.’
    • ‘Buoyed by high crude prices, Western oil majors are reporting outsize profits.’
    • ‘Scott can dazzle but has missed the cut in eight of the 15 majors he has played, including last year's Masters.’
    • ‘I think he will win majors and compete with Woods in the future.’
    • ‘Tiger Woods has won more majors by himself than the other three combined.’
  • 4North American A student's principal subject or course.

    ‘many students would ignore courses outside their major’
    • ‘It is possible for you to plan a program that would include preparation for more than one major, an easy task if the majors in question have some lower division requirements in common.’
    • ‘Other college dance programs encourage students to take additional majors and minors outside of dance.’
    • ‘The School of Natural Sciences will add new majors in the upcoming years as student enrollment and resources increase.’
    • ‘To complete the following majors in four years, you must begin in these majors as freshmen and generally complete 16 to 18 credits per term.’
    • ‘So many of our students today bring intense pragmatism to their choice of courses and majors.’
    • ‘On the contrary, a major in languages will open up more career options and make you more competitive on the job market.’
    • ‘The individualized major in business administration provides the opportunity for a broad survey of business subjects.’
    • ‘The Ministry of Education recently issued a list of subjects and majors that leading universities nationwide offer.’
    • ‘The notion of integrating the goals of liberal education into students' majors was taken seriously.’
    • ‘It is no surprise that Cornell is offering majors in disciplines so important to the wine industry.’
    • ‘Students have a second chance to change to their favourite majors in college.’
    • ‘On the other hand, students who have specialized majors in the sciences may wish to develop more general communications and analytical skills.’
    • ‘Early in the program, a few students transferred out of the AGECO into majors with fewer course requirements.’
    • ‘Your academic advisor is the next source to tap into about college majors and courses as well as jobs related to the field.’
    • ‘Even if it is not my major in college or part of my job, I want to doodle and paint throughout my life for my own enjoyment.’
    • ‘Choosing a major in college is one of the most important decisions a student makes, but you needn't lose sleep over it.’
    • ‘Renovations will make this practically a new course for the final major of the year.’
    • ‘An undergraduate major in anthropology not only provides a sound Liberal Arts education but also gives students a needed edge in today's fiercely competitive job market.’
    • ‘They are required to have a college diploma at least, and their majors in universities must be related to law or psychology.’
    • ‘Penny completed her BA at Rhodes University last year with majors in Drama and English.’
    1. 4.1often with modifier A student specializing in a specified subject.
      ‘a math major’
      • ‘Though there are about 20 classics majors in the Class of 2008, the department is still notably larger than it has been in recent years.’
      • ‘Nearly all the English majors have read Paradise Lost, but not Genesis.’
      • ‘You don't have to be a math major to see that his plan is just plain dumb for retirees.’
      • ‘We begin testing nursing majors as they enter their first nursing courses in the sophomore year.’
      • ‘As a group, these respondents were generally representative of elementary education majors at the university.’
      • ‘Only the private liberal arts colleges seemed to lag noticeably, but they still reported an average of 17 percent more majors in their departments.’
      • ‘So I said that she had previously gone to the class for the undergraduate majors, but this one was for the graduate students.’
      • ‘In my opinion the book is mandatory reading for all college majors in the social sciences.’
      • ‘This is a great loss not only for the majors and students within the department but also for the entire college.’
      • ‘This last course is a class for art education majors and art majors interested in teaching.’
      • ‘All majors in honors must complete at least one semester of study abroad in a French-speaking country.’
      • ‘Also, those courses are often designed to weed out weaker students from prospective majors.’
      • ‘In the senior class alone, seventy students are Economics majors.’
      • ‘These data can be compared with qualitative internal focus group data collected from majors close to graduation.’
      • ‘He's also teaching mathematics to non math majors at my old alma mater.’
      • ‘They had all studied English in middle and high school and many were English majors in college.’
      • ‘This discussion is central because most of the students that we see in our introductory courses are non-science majors.’
      • ‘Every undergrad theater major knows that the core of drama is conflict between people.’
      • ‘We propose two rationales for using primary research articles in a course for non-science majors.’
      • ‘The report covers the changing design and management of undergraduate majors in colleges of agriculture.’
  • 5Logic
    A major term or premise.

  • 6Bridge

    ‘South was anxious to mention his four-card major and bid one spade’
    short for major suit
    • ‘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.’
  • 7Australian Rules Football
    A goal.

    • ‘For Rovers it was Clifford Tommy who registered majors with one in the second and then the third quarter.’
    • ‘The Cats were the only goal scorers in the second quarter with one major, sending them in at half time 17 points ahead.’
    • ‘Solly has also pushed forward on a few occasion and contributed 14 majors.’


[no object]major in
NZ, North American, Australian
  • Specialize in (a particular subject) at college or university.

    ‘I was trying to decide if I should major in drama or English’
    • ‘I've been a long time fan of television, even going so far as to major in it in college.’
    • ‘It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I decided to major in special education.’
    • ‘Brown is a graduate from Washington University who majored in English literature.’
    • ‘She is currently a part-time student in her first at York University where she is majoring in French Studies.’
    • ‘He is a university graduate who majored in architecture and engineering.’
    • ‘All students proposing to major in Humanities must first be admitted to the Humanities Honors Program.’
    • ‘Alice went to the Santa Fe State University and majored in communication and minored in Spanish.’
    • ‘His love of art continued after high school, and he attended Towson State University where he majored in art.’
    • ‘Vickie attended Nebraska Wesleyan University, where she majored in Chemistry and Spanish.’
    • ‘He majored in transportation at the University of Texas at Austin.’
    • ‘He is an undergrad student majoring in journalism at the University of Minnesota.’
    • ‘She even has ambitions to return to college and major in interior design and business.’
    • ‘I am now a graduate student majoring in journalism at University of Missouri-Columbia.’
    • ‘Madden graduated from Buffalo State University, where he majored in art education.’
    • ‘While at the reservation, Ben enrolled in the local university where he majored in wildlife biology.’
    • ‘After high school Lamb went to Delaware State University, where he majored in political science.’
    • ‘I also had four students who would be majoring in art education in college.’
    • ‘Born in Saskatchewan, Grant sowed the seeds for her specialty by majoring in psychology at the University of Saskatchewan.’
    • ‘He actually went to school at University of Pennsylvania, majoring in biology.’
    • ‘A member of Trinity College's class from Newton, Massachusetts, he majored in history and religion.’
    • ‘In Saudi Arabia, nearly one in five undergraduates majors in Islamic studies.’
    study, do, take
    View synonyms


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