itinerary unit in medieval England, distance of about three statute miles, late 14c., ultimately from Late Latin leuga (source also of French lieue, Spanish legua, Italian lega), which is said by Roman writers to be from Gaulish. A vague measure (perhaps originally an hour's hike), in England it was a conventional, not a legal measure, and in English it is found more often in poetic than in practical writing.
c. 1300, majour, "greater, more important or effective, leading, principal," from Latin maior (earlier *magios), irregular comparative of magnus "large, great" (from PIE root *meg- "great"). From 1590s as "greater in quantity, number, or extent." Used in music (of modes, scales, or chords) since 1690s, on notion of an interval a half-tone "greater" than the minor; of modern modes, "characterized by the use of major tonality throughout," by 1811. Major league, in baseball, is attested by 1892.
military rank above captain and below lieutenant colonel, 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.)).
His chief duties consist in superintending the exercises of his regiment or battalion, and in putting in execution the commands of his superior officer. His ordinary position in the line is behind the left wing. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
The musical sense is attested by 1797.
of a college or university student, "focus (one's) studies," 1910, American English, from major (n.) in sense of "subject of specialization" (by 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] a sense derived from the military major.
"alliance," mid-15c., ligg, from French ligue "confederacy, league" (15c.), from Italian lega, from legare "to tie, to bind," from Latin ligare "to bind" (from PIE root *leig- "to tie, bind"). Originally among nations, subsequently extended to political associations (1846) and sports associations (1879). League of Nations is attested from 1917 (created 1919).
also majordomo, "man employed to superintend a household, especially that of a sovereign or other dignitary," 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 maior "greater" (see major (adj.)) + genitive of domus "house" (from PIE root *dem- "house, household").
"mean, petty, unprofessional," 1906, from baseball slang for the small-town baseball clubs below the minor league where talent was developed (by 1903), from bush (n.) in the adjectival slang sense of "rural, provincial," which originally was simple description, not a value judgment.
"prominent, important, first-rate," by 1925, a figurative use from baseball, where big league was used for "a major league" by 1891. See league (n.1).