Definition of major in US English:



  • 1attributive Important, serious, or significant.

    ‘the use of drugs is a major problem’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the added height of the curb under his truck was just enough to snag a major power line.’
    • ‘More than 27,000 homes were plunged into darkness by a major power failure.’
    • ‘Two major national marine strategy documents have been produced in the last ten years.’
    • ‘Human flights to Mars will likely be the next major milestone in humankind's expansion into the solar system.’
    • ‘There have been three major deals in the last year.’
    • ‘The health fair in February was the second major project the group has undertaken.’
    • ‘This important book is a major contribution to an understanding of British politics and the way it developed.’
    • ‘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 second major plus about Kerry's victory on Sunday was the quality of the football they played.’
    • ‘Rail chiefs warned of major disruption to services on the East Coast main line following the derailment.’
    • ‘The modern Games, and many other major sports festivals, follow a similar format.’
    • ‘One major obstacle in recruitment, however, is beyond the military's control.’
    • ‘He spoke of the main issues now causing major problems for the fishing industry.’
    • ‘This family has made a major contribution to our social, cultural and historic heritage.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A profit warning in August caused a major fall in the share price.’
    • ‘On the other hand, at the regional level, there has yet to be an agreement among Africa's major powers on a common strategy.’
    • ‘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.’
    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’
      • ‘On all major roads leading into this town are signs boldly identifying Skipton as an historic market town.’
      • ‘Heart disease and strokes are major causes of death and ill health in the Western Health Board region.’
      • ‘Austria shares the major findings of the Commission in its Regular Report on Bulgaria.’
      • ‘Huge demonstrations in the capital city of his major ally would not be good for the image.’
      • ‘Dealing with change is one of the major problems in Europe, if not the major one.’
      • ‘There are significant departments at most major banks that cater to this trade.’
      • ‘A professional video conference is not exactly cheap and this makes the major share of the cost.’
      • ‘Chris Smith is well aware that terrestrial broadcasting still commands the major share of viewing.’
      • ‘The right wing election agenda shared by the three major parties can be thrown off course by the fights over war and pensions.’
      • ‘All authorities say now that the major part of the diet should be based around whole plant foods.’
      • ‘We have the highest economic growth of any of the world's major industrialized nations.’
      • ‘The three major banks all reported record profits this year.’
      • ‘The major share of the party's vote came from two provinces.’
      • ‘Cancer is the second major cause of death, after heart disease, in the city.’
      • ‘Shares of the major housebuilders have hardly moved at all since the report came out.’
      • ‘The four major theoretical approaches to the field have been realism, liberalism, Marxism, and domestic politics.’
      • ‘Agriculture is still the major industry and the main employer throughout the country.’
      • ‘Since then, 48 nations have now signed this treaty, including all the major industrialized countries.’
      • ‘Accidents, the major cause of deaths in Kerala, can certainly be prevented with broader roads.’
      • ‘Shares in major airlines and travel-related companies fell particularly sharply.’
      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’
      • ‘Knee replacement is a major operation, and therefore, like all surgery, carries a degree of risk’
      • ‘I had a major operation so I was a bit low, but within a day of surgery we were laughing and joking.’
      • ‘Bertie underwent a major operation some weeks ago and has been recuperating since.’
      • ‘A visit to a colposcopy clinic can produce more anxiety than a major surgical procedure.’
      • ‘In the future, the trend will be for shorter recovery periods after major operations.’
  • 2Music
    (of a scale) having an interval of a semitone between the third and fourth degrees and the seventh and eighth degrees.

    Contrasted with minor
    • ‘Every student in the program plays twelve major scales by memory to qualify for one of those three performing bands.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    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.
      • ‘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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 3British dated (appended to a surname in some 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


  • 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.

    • ‘She has claimed that she would never have made it to the top of British politics without the help of the former army major.’
    • ‘Most of the soldiers in the queue were grizzled captains and majors.’
    • ‘They have a son Marcus, an Army major with the Highlanders regiment and a daughter, Susan, who lives in Devon.’
    • ‘The head of the corps would have the title of colonel but receive the lower pay of an army major.’
    • ‘The officer in front, a major, bent and jabbed him with his swagger stick.’
    • ‘The army major has seen his daughter for 12 days in the past two years.’
    • ‘The patient was an army major who, at the age of 90, had long since retired from her military nursing career.’
    • ‘A retired British Army major is planning to offer refuge to companies sick of government meddling in the Web.’
    • ‘His colleagues, a major, warrant officer and another corporal, were killed.’
    • ‘A resident of Canada, married to an army major, she has contented herself with raising six children.’
    • ‘One e-mail avowed that too many majors and lieutenant colonels flounder in their first joint assignments.’
    • ‘One morning our door swung open, and the room was suddenly filled with a brigadier, two majors, and our own commanding officer.’
    • ‘On Thursday, the senator agreed to lift his hold on promotions of 127 Air Force captains and majors.’
    • ‘While the generals debated how to mandate a revolution, the captains and majors quietly implemented one.’
    • ‘The major invites me to join him and a few other officers for lunch, typically delicious Army fare.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He was an ordinary kind of guy who was drafted into the Army as an enlisted man and ended the war as a major.’
    • ‘It was a letter signed by a brigadier and a major of the Sudanese Army.’
  • 2Music
    A major key, interval, or scale.

    • ‘A two-bar episode leads to the soprano middle entry in the relative major.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘By contrast, almost all of the melodies here are built on the major, the most boring of scales.’
    • ‘To avoid unnecessary chromaticism, scales other than the major are based on different sol-fa notes.’
    1. 2.1MajorBell-ringing A system of change-ringing using eight bells.
  • 3A major world organization, company, or competition.

    ‘it's not unreasonable to believe someone can win all four majors’
    • ‘The Greens are on a roll now, and that's because because the public want change, real change, and the majors weren't listening.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Scott can dazzle but has missed the cut in eight of the 15 majors he has played, including last year's Masters.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Player is one of five golfers to win all four majors.’
    • ‘And that added pressure - we have four majors a year, but only one Olympiad every four years.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘This year the majors are on courses that will suit me.’
    • ‘After his low-key build-up to the season's first major, he would be excused another near miss.’
    • ‘Buoyed by high crude prices, Western oil majors are reporting outsize profits.’
    • ‘I think he will win majors and compete with Woods in the future.’
    • ‘Weir, the US Masters champion, is still favourite to collect his second major of the year.’
    • ‘Most of the low-cost airlines leave the majority of business travelers to the majors.’
    • ‘It is, of course, in the majors that Monty's emotional frailties have been most exposed.’
    • ‘Players, most notably Tiger Woods, have been asked to boycott the season's first major.’
    • ‘Tiger Woods has won more majors by himself than the other three combined.’
    • ‘I never thought I'd be in a position to win all four majors.’
    • ‘DiMarco now joins Colin Montgomerie as the only two players to lose two play-offs without winning a major.’
    • ‘He would also become the first player to win the season's first two majors since Nicklaus in 1972.’
    • ‘Now he is competing among the best of the world's golfers in the second major of the 2001 calendar.’
    1. 3.1the majors The major leagues.
      • ‘Knoblauch had eight steals, also leading the majors, in eight attempts.’
      • ‘Then he played in the majors for eight years before returning to the bushes for nine years to pay his dues as a manager.’
      • ‘He made so many changes that Cincinnati starters finished last in the majors with 875 innings.’
      • ‘Chad Hermansen hit below .200 in the majors this season and is barely above that level in the minors.’
      • ‘Davenport well remembers his first skipper in the majors - and a fine manager he was.’
      • ‘Marrero was in his second season in the majors, and he remained with Washington until 1954.’
      • ‘The team expects him to advance quickly in the system, arriving in the majors by 2004.’
      • ‘He's in his 11 th season managing the Padres, the second-longest tenure in the majors.’
      • ‘He's expected to travel through the system quickly and may be a candidate for the majors by next season.’
      • ‘The Angels entered the week hitting .244 in May, which ranked 28th in the majors.’
      • ‘Of the 11 players who failed to walk in the minor leagues, eight of them were in the majors for good by age 22.’
      • ‘Ausmus threw out 48 percent of basestealers last year, second best in the majors.’
      • ‘Pierre led the majors with 65 steals this season and the Marlins had the most overall.’
      • ‘The Redbirds have allowed the fewest home runs in the majors and the second lowest walk total in the NL.’
      • ‘And once relievers reach the majors, hitters generally get only one look at them per game.’
      • ‘Overall, you had the second-best record in the majors and were the hottest team in baseball going into the playoffs.’
      • ‘Bell has yet to play in the majors this season due to a torn calf muscle and a setback suffered five games into a AAA rehab assignment.’
      • ‘The Marlins opened this season ranked 25th in the majors with a $42 million payroll.’
      • ‘He fanned 12 per nine innings in the minors and is sitting right around eight in the majors.’
      • ‘With an $88 million payroll that ranks second in the majors, the Dodgers are trying to correct that.’
  • 4North American A student's principal subject or course of study.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘So many of our students today bring intense pragmatism to their choice of courses and majors.’
    • ‘Penny completed her BA at Rhodes University last year with majors in Drama and English.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The Ministry of Education recently issued a list of subjects and majors that leading universities nationwide offer.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The notion of integrating the goals of liberal education into students' majors was taken seriously.’
    • ‘The School of Natural Sciences will add new majors in the upcoming years as student enrollment and resources increase.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It is no surprise that Cornell is offering majors in disciplines so important to the wine industry.’
    • ‘Renovations will make this practically a new course for the final major of the year.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They are required to have a college diploma at least, and their majors in universities must be related to law or psychology.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Your academic advisor is the next source to tap into about college majors and courses as well as jobs related to the field.’
    • ‘Other college dance programs encourage students to take additional majors and minors outside of dance.’
    • ‘Choosing a major in college is one of the most important decisions a student makes, but you needn't lose sleep over it.’
    • ‘Early in the program, a few students transferred out of the AGECO into majors with fewer course requirements.’
    1. 4.1often with modifier A student specializing in a specified subject.
      ‘a math major’
      • ‘They had all studied English in middle and high school and many were English majors in college.’
      • ‘All majors in honors must complete at least one semester of study abroad in a French-speaking country.’
      • ‘These data can be compared with qualitative internal focus group data collected from majors close to graduation.’
      • ‘In the senior class alone, seventy students are Economics majors.’
      • ‘The report covers the changing design and management of undergraduate majors in colleges of agriculture.’
      • ‘In my opinion the book is mandatory reading for all college majors in the social sciences.’
      • ‘Every undergrad theater major knows that the core of drama is conflict between people.’
      • ‘Also, those courses are often designed to weed out weaker students from prospective majors.’
      • ‘This last course is a class for art education majors and art majors interested in teaching.’
      • ‘Only the private liberal arts colleges seemed to lag noticeably, but they still reported an average of 17 percent more majors in their departments.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This is a great loss not only for the majors and students within the department but also for the entire college.’
      • ‘He's also teaching mathematics to non math majors at my old alma mater.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We propose two rationales for using primary research articles in a course for non-science majors.’
      • ‘This discussion is central because most of the students that we see in our introductory courses are non-science majors.’
      • ‘So I said that she had previously gone to the class for the undergraduate majors, but this one was for the graduate students.’
      • ‘As a group, these respondents were generally representative of elementary education majors at the university.’
      • ‘Nearly all the English majors have read Paradise Lost, but not Genesis.’
  • 5Logic
    A major term or premise.

  • 6Bridge

    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.’
  • 7A person of full legal age.


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

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


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