majority

majority
majority
We are concerned here with three related uses, two of them relatively straightforward and one that gives rise to a difficulty:
1. majority = ‘a superiority in numbers’,
especially in political contexts, ‘the amount by which a winning vote exceeds the next’: The amendment was passed by a large majority / The labour candidate's majority was increased by 15%. The verb following this use is always singular (unless majority is used in the plural, this being the only sense in which plural number is idiomatic: MPs' majorities tend to be reduced). (Note that in AmE, majority means the amount by which the winning vote exceeds all the others, i.e. what in BrE is called an overall majority; for the meaning given above plurality is used.)
2. majority = ‘the greater number or part’.

• Any future Prime Minister to whom the donnish majority was prepared to give an honorary doctorate would be one whose policies found favour with them —Times, 1985

• The vast majority have now come to terms with their destiny —Encounter, 1987.

The verb following this use can be either singular or plural, depending on whether collectivity or individuality is the stronger notion. Majority is occasionally used in the plural in this meaning, although it is hardly idiomatic:

• Majorities in various countries are, of course, critical of American foreign policies —weblog, AmE 2004 [OEC].

3. majority of + noun.
Majority in this sense refers to a number of (countable) people or things, and the noun following of, together with the verb of which it is the subject, should be plural:

• A majority of them come from the Scheduled Castes —Times of India, 1972

• The majority of school buildings are dilapidated and decaying —Encounter, 1987.

• I fully accept that the vast majority of kids in South Woodham are good —new website, BrE 2004 [OEC].

Uses with singular nouns (the majority of the work / the majority of the time) are unidiomatic unless these are words such as group, population, public, etc. which denote a collection of individuals:

• Gillray, in common with the vast majority of his public, did not want to take the Jacobin side —M. Billig, 1991

• They are simply out of touch with the majority of the electorate and have been for many years —Bolton Evening News, 2003.

The following are incorrect: ☒ He spent the majority of [read: most of]

• his working life as a schoolteacher —television news, 1996

• ☒ The vast majority of [read: much the greatest part of or nearly all] music is execrable in quality —arts website, 2004.


Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • majority — ma·jor·i·ty /mə jȯr ə tē/ n pl ties 1 a: legal age b: the status of one who has reached legal age 2 a: a number or quantity greater than half of a total compare plu …   Law dictionary

  • Majority — • The state of a person or thing greater, or superior, in relation to another person or thing Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Majority     Majority      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Majority — Ma*jor i*ty, n.; pl. {Majorities}. [F. majorit[ e]. See {Major}.] 1. The quality or condition of being major or greater; superiority. Specifically: (a) The military rank of a major. (b) The condition of being of full age, or authorized by law to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • majority — majority, plurality are arbitrarily defined in the United States, especially by statute, when they refer to an excess of votes as determining an election. Both imply an excess of votes over the next highest candidate. The distinction between the… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • majority — ► NOUN (pl. majorities) 1) the greater number. 2) Brit. the number by which the votes cast for one party or candidate exceed those for the next. 3) the age when a person is legally considered a full adult, usually 18 or 21. USAGE Strictly… …   English terms dictionary

  • majority — (n.) 1550s, condition of being greater, superiority, from M.Fr. majorité (16c.), from M.L. majoritatem (nom. majoritas) majority, from L. maior greater (see MAJOR (Cf. major) (adj.)). Sense of state of being of full age is attested from 1560s;… …   Etymology dictionary

  • majority — [n1] plurality, most best part*, bulk, greater number, greater part, larger part, lion’s share*, mass, max*, more, more than half*, preponderance, superiority; concepts 766,829,835 Ant. minority, secondary majority [n2] adulthood age of consent,… …   New thesaurus

  • majority — [mə jôr′ə tē, məjär′ə tē] n. pl. majorities [Fr majorité < ML majoritas < L major: see MAJOR] 1. [also with pl. v.] the greater part or larger number; more than half of a total ☆ 2. the number by which the votes cast for the candidate, bill …   English World dictionary

  • Majority — This article is about the mathematical concept of majority. For other uses, see Majority (disambiguation). A majority is a subset of a group consisting of more than half of its members. This can be compared to a plurality, which is a subset… …   Wikipedia

  • majority — ▪ I. majority ma‧jor‧i‧ty 1 [məˈdʒɒrti ǁ məˈdʒɔː , məˈdʒɑː ] noun majorities PLURALFORM 1. [singular] most of the people or things in a particular group: • Some franchisees quit, but the majority are still hanging on. majority of …   Financial and business terms

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