Difference Between Main, Mane, and Maine
‘Main’, ‘main’, and ‘Maine’ are three interesting words. They are all homophones, meaning that they are all pronounced the exact same way. However, while they all come from Germanic or Celtic words, none of them have overlapping etymologies and they do not have similar meanings. Somehow, three words managed to converge into the exact same pronunciation without having anything in common.
‘Main’ comes from the Old English word ‘mægen’, which comes from the Proto Germanic ‘magina’, and ultimately from the Proto Indo European word ‘mogh’ or ‘megh’. All the words in the etymology meant ‘strong’ or ‘powerful’. ‘Main’ also meant that for a while, but that started changing at around the 15th century, where it took on the current meaning.
Today, it means something that is the most important or the largest, and often both.
“Everyone enjoyed the side acts, but they were really here for the main event.”
“A quarter of the pie was ruined, but the main part of it was still good.”
The adverb form is ‘mainly’, which means ‘for the most part. ‘Main’ can sometimes be used as a noun. This is usually related to the pipes or cords that provide a service to a building, such as a water main or electric main.
‘Mane’ comes from the Old English word ‘manu’, meaning ‘mane’, which came from Proto Germanic ‘mano’, also meaning ‘mane’. That word came from the Proto Indo European word ‘mon’, which surprisingly did not mean ‘mane’. Instead, it was the word for ‘neck’.
A mane is typically long hair found on the back of the head or the neck. It is most often used to describe a horse mane or a lion mane.
“The horse’s mane streamed out over its back.”
In humans, it describes hair at the back of the head that is unusually long or thick.
“Her mane was so bad that her hairbrush was trapped in it for ten minutes.”
‘Maine’ is the name of a state in the United States. It was named after a province in northwest France. The original occupants of the area were the aulerci cenomanni, a Celtic tribe. Their capital city, Vindinon, is the city now known as le Mans, the capital of Maine province.
There are a few other places called Maine: there are two cities in the state of Wisconsin and one in the state of New York called Maine. In France, there is also the Maine River, which is a tributary of the Lorne River.
The name doesn’t appear to have any significance beyond the place names and the fact that those places are named after the people who once lived in the province of Maine. The word can be used as a noun to describe those places, and it can also be used as an adjective to describe something that comes from there.
“We went up to New England just to get a taste of that sweet Maine lobster.”
In speech, it is easy to tell ‘main’ and ‘mane’ apart. ‘Main’ is the one that is used the most often, and it is mainly used as an adjective. ‘Mane’ is only used as a noun and will most likely only be used in contexts that involve hair or fur. ‘Maine’ is also more likely to come up in special situations, such as talking about the states of the United States, French provinces, or French rivers.
To summarize, ‘main’ means something that is the largest or most important. A mane is long, thick hair. Maine is a state, a French province, three cities, or a French river. Once you know the meanings and how they are used in speech, it should be easy to keep them straight.
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