mail (n.1)
"post, letters," c.1200, "a traveling bag," from Old French male "wallet, bag, bundle," from Frankish *malha or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *malho- (cognates: Old High German malaha "wallet, bag," Middle Dutch male "bag"), from PIE *molko- "skin, bag." Sense extension to "letters and parcels" (18c.) is via "bag full of letter" (1650s) or "person or vehicle who carries postal matter" (1650s). In 19c. England, mail was letters going abroad, while home dispatches were post. Sense of "personal batch of letters" is from 1844, originally American English.
mail (n.2)
"metal ring armor," c.1300, from Old French maille "link of mail, mesh of net," from Latin macula "mesh in a net," originally "spot, blemish," on notion that the gaps in a net or mesh looked like spots.
mail (v.)
"send by post," 1828, American English, from mail (n.1). Related: Mailed; mailing; mailable. Mailing list attested from 1876.
mail (n.3)
"rent, payment," from Old English mal (see blackmail (n.)).
mail-order (adj.)
1875, from mail (n.1) + order. Before television and the Internet, the bane of retailers and shop-owners.
The origin, foundation and principle of mail order trading is universally recognized as wrong. It was conceived in iniquity and brought forth in despair as the world's greatest destructive medium. Mail Order Trading was born in the brain of knaves and thieves who fired their building for insurance profits, then sold the salvaged and damaged stock to the unsuspecting sons of man in distant territory. [Thomas J. Sullivan, "Merchants and Manufacturers on Trial," Chicago, 1914]
mailbag (n.)
also mail-bag, 1794, from mail (n.1) + bag (n.).
mailbox (n.)
also mail-box, 1797, "box for mailbags on a coach," from mail (n.1) + box (n.1). Meaning "letterbox" is from 1853, American English.
mailed (adj.)
"having mail armor," late 14c., from mail (n.2).
maillot (n.)
"tight-fitting one-piece swimsuit," 1928, from French maillot "swaddling clothes," from Old French mailloel (13c.), probably an alteration of maille "mesh" (see mail (n.2)). Borrowed earlier by English in the sense of "tights" (1888).
mailman (n.)
also mail-man, 1841, from mail (n.1) + man (n.).
maim (v.)
c.1300, maimen, from Old French mahaignier "injure, wound, muitilate, cripple, disarm," possibly from Vulgar Latin *mahanare (source also of Provençal mayanhar, Italian magagnare), of unknown origin; or possibly from a Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *mait- (source of Old Norse meiða "to hurt," related to mad (adj.)), or from PIE root *mai- "to cut." Related: Maimed; maiming.
main (n.)
Old English mægen (n.) "power, bodily strength, force, efficacy," from Proto-Germanic *maginam "power," suffixed form of PIE root *magh- (1) "be able, have power" (see may (v.)). Original sense preserved in phrase with might and main. Meaning "principal channel in a utility system" is first recorded 1727 in main drain; Used since 1540s for "continuous stretch of land or water." In Spanish Main the word is short for mainland and refers to the coast between Panama and Orinoco.
main (adj.)
early 13c., "large, bulky, strong," from Old English mægen- "power, strength, force," used in compounds (such as mægensibb "great love," mægenbyrðen "heavy burden;" see main (n.)), probably also from or influenced by Old Norse megenn (adj.) "strong, powerful." Sense of "chief" is c.1400. Main course in the meal sense attested from 1829. Main man "favorite male friend; hero" is from 1967, U.S. black slang.
main line (n.)
"principal line of a railway," 1841; meaning "affluent area of residence" is by 1917, originally (with capitals) that of Philadelphia, from the "main line" of the Pennsylvania Railroad which added local stops to a string of backwater towns west of the city late 19c. that helped turn them into fashionable suburbs.
The Main Line, Philadelphia's most famous suburban district, was deliberately conceived in the 1870's and 1880's by the [Pennsylvania] Railroad, which built high-toned housing developments, ran hotels, more or less forced its executives to plunk their estates out there, and created a whole series of somewhat spurious Welsh towns along the railroad tracks. ... Now everybody assumes these all date from 1682, like the Robertses; but as Chestnut Hill people like to say, "nobody but Welsh peasants lived on the Main Line till the Railroad built it up." [Nathaniel Burt, "The Perennial Philadelphians," 1963]
The original station stops were, in order out from the city, Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Paoli. The train line for commuters along it is the Paoli Local.
Main Street (n.)
"principal street of a (U.S.) town," 1810. Used allusively to indicate "mediocrity, small-town materialism" from late 19c., especially since publication of Sinclair Lewis's novel "Main Street" (1920).
Maine
U.S. state, probably ultimately from French Maine, region in France (named for the river that runs through it, which has a name of Gaulish origin). The name was applied to that part of coastal North America by French explorers.
mainframe (n.)
"central processor of a computer system," 1964, from main (adj.) + frame (n.).
mainland (n.)
c.1400, from main (adj.) + land (n.). Usually referring to continuous bodies of land and not islands or peninsulas. Related: Mainlander.
mainline (v.)
also main-line, 1934, from main line in American English slang sense "principal vein into which drugs can be injected" (1933).
mainly (adv.)
late 13c., "vigorously," from main (adj.) + -ly (2). Meaning "especially" is from c.1400; that of "for the most part" is from 1660s.
mainmast (n.)
16c., from main (adj.) + mast (n.1).
mainspring (n.)
1590s, of watches, clocks, etc., from main (adj.) + spring (n.3). Figurative use from 1690s.
mainstay (n.)
"chief support," 1787, figurative use of a nautical noun meaning "stay which extends from the main-top to the foot of the foremast" (late 15c.), from main (adj.) + stay (n.).
mainstream (n.)
also main-stream, main stream, "principal current of a river," 1660s, from main (adj.) + stream (n.); hence, "prevailing direction in opinion, popular taste, etc.," a figurative use first attested in Carlyle (1831). Mainstream media attested by 1980 in language of U.S. leftists critical of coverage of national affairs.
maintain (v.)
mid-13c., "to practice habitually," from Anglo-French meintenir (Old French maintenir, 12c.) "keep (a wife), sustain; persevere in, practice continually," from Latin manu tenere "hold in the hand," from manu, ablative of manus "hand" (see manual) + tenere "to hold" (see tenet). Meaning "to carry on, keep up" is from mid-14c.; that of "to keep oneself, to support" is from late 14c. Sense of "to defend in speech" is from mid-14c. Related: Maintained; maintaining; maintains.
maintainable (adj.)
mid-15c., from maintain + -able. Related: Maintainability.
maintenance (n.)
mid-14c., "bearing, deportment," from Old French maintenance "upkeep; shelter, protection,: from maintenir (see maintain). Meaning "action of upholding or keeping in being" is from early 15c. "Action of providing a person with the necessities of life" is from late 14c.
maisonette (n.)
1818, "small house," from French maisonnette, diminutive of maison "house" (11c.), from Latin mansionem (see mansion). Meaning "a part of a building let separately" is from 1912.
maitre d'
also maitre d, 1943; see maître d'hôtel.
maitre d'hotel
1530s, "head domestic," from French maître d'hôtel, literally "house-master," from Old French maistre "master; skilled worker, educator" (12c.), from Latin magistrum (see magistrate). Sense of "hotel manager, manager of a dining room" is from 1890. Shortened form maître d' is attested from 1942; simple maitre from 1899.
maize (n.)
1550s, from Cuban Spanish maiz, from Arawakan (Haiti) mahiz.
majestic (adj.)
c.1600, from majesty + -ic. Related: Majestical (1570s); majestically.
majesty (n.)
c.1300, "greatness, glory," from Old French majeste "grandeur, nobility" (12c.), from Latin maiestatem (nominative maiestas) "greatness, dignity, elevation, honor, excellence," from stem of maior (neuter maius), comparative of magnus "great" (see magnate). Earliest English us is with reference to God; as a title, in reference to kings and queens (late 14c.), it is from Romance languages and descends from the Roman Empire.
Majlis (n.)
Persian national assembly, 1821, from Arabic majlis "assembly," literally "session," from jalasa "he sat down."
majolica (n.)
Italian glazed pottery, 1550s, from Italian Majolica, 14c. name of island now known as Majorca in the Balearics, from Latin maior (see major (adj.)); so called because it is the largest of the three islands. The best pottery of this type was said to have been made there.
major (adj.)
c.1300, from Latin maior (earlier *magjos), irregular comparative of magnus "large, great" (see magnate). Used in music (of modes, scales, or chords) since 1690s, on notion of an interval a half-tone greater than the minor.
major (n.)
military rank, 1640s, from French major, short for sergent-major, originally a higher rank than at present, from Medieval Latin major "chief officer, magnate, superior person," from Latin maior "an elder, adult," noun use of the adjective (see major (adj.)). The musical sense attested by 1797.
major (v.)
"focus (one's) studies," 1910, American English, from major (n.) in sense of "subject of specialization" (1890). Related: Majored; majoring. Earlier as a verb, in Scottish, "to prance about, or walk backwards and forwards with a military air and step" [Jamieson, 1825].
major-domo (n.)
1580s, via Italian maggiordomo or Spanish mayordomo, from Medieval Latin major domus "chief of the household," also "mayor of the palace" under the Merovingians, from Latin major "greater" (see major (adj.)) + genitive of domus "house" (see domestic).
majorette (n.)
"baton-twirler," 1941, short for drum-majorette (1938), fem. of drum-major (1590s).
The perfect majorette is a pert, shapely, smiling extrovert, who loves big, noisy crowds and knows how to make those crowds love her. ["Life" magazine, Oct. 10, 1938]
(The article notes that the activity "has been going on for about six years now").
majoritarian
1917 (adj.), from majority + -ian.
majority (n.)
1550s, "condition of being greater, superiority," from Middle French majorité (16c.), from Medieval Latin majoritatem (nominative majoritas) "majority," from Latin maior "greater" (see major (adj.)). Sense of "state of being of full age" is attested from 1560s; meaning "greater number or part" (of votes, etc.) first recorded 1690s. The majority "the dead" recorded from 1719.
majorly (adv.)
by 1887, from major (adj.) + -ly (2). Common in popular U.S. colloquial speech from c.1995.
majuscule
18c. (adj)., 1825 (n.), from French majuscule (16c.), from Latin maiuscula (littera), fem. of maiusculus "somewhat larger, somewhat greater," diminutive of maior (see major (adj.)).
make (v.)
Old English macian "to make, form, construct, do; prepare, arrange, cause; behave, fare, transform," from West Germanic *makon "to fashion, fit" (cognates: Old Saxon makon, Old Frisian makia "to build, make," Middle Dutch and Dutch maken, Old High German mahhon "to construct, make," German machen "to make"), from PIE *mag- "to knead, mix; to fashion, fit" (see macerate). If so, sense evolution perhaps is via prehistoric houses built of mud. Gradually replaced the main Old English word, gewyrcan (see work (v.)).

Meaning "to arrive at" (a place), first attested 1620s, originally was nautical. Formerly used in many places where specific verbs now are used, such as to make Latin (c.1500) "to write Latin compositions." This broader usage survives in some phrases, such as to make water "to urinate," to make a book "arrange a series of bets" (1828), make hay "to turn over mown grass to expose it to sun." Make the grade is 1912, perhaps from the notion of railway engines going up an incline.
Read the valuable suggestions in Dr. C.V. Mosby's book -- be prepared to surmount obstacles before you encounter them -- equipped with the power to "make the grade" in life's climb. [advertisement for "Making the Grade," December 1916]
But the phrase also was in use in a schoolwork context at the time. Make do "manage with what is available" is attested from 1867. Make time "go fast" is 1849; make tracks in this sense is from 1834. To make a federal case out of (something) popularized in 1959 movie "Anatomy of a Murder;" to make an offer (one) can't refuse is from Mario Puzo's 1969 novel "The Godfather." To make (one's) day is from 1909; menacing make my day is from 1971, popularized by Clint Eastwood in film "Sudden Impact" (1983). Related: Made; making.
make (n.)
"match, mate, companion" (now archaic or dialectal), from Old English gemaca "mate, equal; one of a pair, comrade; consort, husband, wife," from Proto-Germanic *gamakon-, related to Old English gemæcc "well-matched, suitable," macian "to make" (see make (v.)). Meaning "manner in which something is made, design, construction" is from c.1300. Phrase on the make "intent on profit or advancement" is from 1869.
make out (v.)
c.1600, "get along," from make (v.) + out. Sense of "understand" is from 1640s; sexual sense first recorded 1939.
make up (v.)
"end a quarrel, reconcile," 1660s, from make (v.) + up.
make-believe (n.)
"pretence," 1811, from make (v.) + believe. As an adjective by 1824.
make-up (n.)
also makeup, "manner in which something is put together," 1821, from make (v.) + up. Cosmetics sense is from 1886; verbal phrase make up "to apply cosmetics" is from 1808.