large (adj.)

c. 1200, of areas, "great in expanse," of persons, "bountiful, inclined to give or spend freely," from Old French large "broad, wide; generous, bounteous" (12c.), from Latin largus "abundant, copious, plentiful; bountiful, liberal in giving, generous" (source also of Spanish largo "long," Italian largo "wide"), a word of unknown origin.

The modern English meanings "extensive; big in overall size; great in number" emerged 14c. Adjective phrase larger-than-life first attested 1840 (bigger than life is from 1640s). Large-handed has meant both "grasping, greedy" (c. 1600) and "generous, liberal" (1620s); also "having large hands" (1896). Living large is a modern colloquial expression (1994 in African-American vernacular), but large in the sense of "prodigal, lavish" is from late 14c. and, of circumstances, "comfortable, easy" from 1738, and in more recent use Farmer and Henley ("Slang and Its Analogues") have it as "impressively, to excess" from 1852.

In mod.Eng., a general designation for considerable magnitude, used instead of great when it is not intended to convey the emotional implication now belonging to that word. [OED]

An older sense of "freedom from prison or restraining influence" is preserved in at large "at (one's) liberty, free from imprisonment or confinement free to move openly" (late 14c.). The phrase, with the meaning "free or at liberty in a general way (without particulars)" is from 1620s; specifically of electors from 1741, American English.

updated on August 19, 2020

Definitions of large from WordNet
large (adj.)
in an advanced stage of pregnancy;
Synonyms: big / enceinte / expectant / gravid / great / heavy / with child
large (adj.)
above average in size or number or quantity or magnitude or extent;
a large number of newspapers
large areas of the world
a big (or large) barn
a large city
a large sum
a large family
Synonyms: big
large (adj.)
fairly large or important in effect; influential;
played a large role in the negotiations
large (adj.)
ostentatiously lofty in style;
a man given to large talk
large (adj.)
generous and understanding and tolerant;
a large heart
a large and generous spirit
Synonyms: big / magnanimous
large (adj.)
conspicuous in position or importance;
he's very large in financial circles
Synonyms: big / prominent
large (adj.)
having broad power and range and scope;
taking the large view
a large sympathy
a large effect
large (adv.)
at a distance, wide of something (as of a mark);
large (adv.)
with the wind abaft the beam;
a ship sailing large
large (adv.)
in a boastful manner;
Synonyms: boastfully / vauntingly / big
large (n.)
a garment size for a large person;
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