"current fashion, prevailing style," 1640s, from French mode "manner, fashion, style" (15c.), a specialized use of the French word that also yielded mode (n.1).
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.
"manner;" late 14c., "melodies, strains of music" (a sense now obsolete; see musical senses below), from Old French mode and directly from Latin modus "measure, extent, quantity; proper measure, rhythm, song; a way, manner, fashion, style" (in Late Latin also "mood" in grammar and logic), from PIE root *med- "take appropriate measures."
Meaning "manner of acting or doing, was in which a thing is done" is by 1660s. Sense of "inflectional category in conjugation" is mid-15c. In music, 1670s as "method of dividing the intervals of the octave for melodic purposes" in reference to ancient Greek music; by 1721 in reference to modern music.
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.
also alamode, 1640s, from French à la mode (15c.), literally "in the (prevailing) fashion" (see a la + mode (n.2)). In 17c., sometimes nativized as all-a-mode. Cookery sense in reference to a dessert served with ice cream is 1903, American English; earlier it was used of a kind of beef stew or soup (1753).
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").
early 14c., stile, "writing instrument, pen, stylus; piece of written discourse, a narrative, treatise;" also "characteristic rhetorical mode of an author, manner or mode of expression," and "way of life, manner, behavior, conduct," from Old French stile, estile "style, fashion, manner; a stake, pale," from Latin stilus "stake, instrument for writing, manner of writing, mode of expression," perhaps from the same source as stick (v.)). Spelling modified incorrectly by influence of Greek stylos "pillar," which probably is not directly related. As distinguished from substance, 1570s. Meaning "mode of dress" is from 1814.