Language: Old English


1 adjective
great1 S1 W1 comparative greater, superlative greatest


[usually before noun] very large in amount or degree:
The movie was a great success.
The news came as possibly the greatest shock of my life.
The paintings cost a great deal (=a lot) of money.
John always takes great care over his work.
It gives me great pleasure (=I am very pleased) to introduce tonight's speaker.
It's a great pity that none of his poems survive.
The temptation was too great to resist.
! Big, large, or great?see usage note big1


especially spoken
very good [= wonderful, fantastic]:
The weather here is great.
It's great to be home.
a great day out for all the family
sound/taste/smell/feel etc great
I worked out this morning and I feel great.
You look great in that dress.
great for doing something
Email's great for keeping in touch.
the great thing about somebody/something (=the very good thing about someone or something)
The great thing about Alex is that he's always willing to explain things to you.


a) [usually before noun] important or having a lot of influence:
one of the greatest scientific achievements of our time
What makes a novel truly great?
great historical events
b) used in the title of a person or event that was very important in the past
Peter/Catherine etc the Great
I'm reading a biography of Alexander the Great.
the Great Depression
the Great War old-fashioned (=World War One)


very good or generous in a way that people admire:
a great humanitarian gesture

extremely skilful

famous for being able to do something extremely well:
Ali was undoubtedly one of the greatest boxers of all time.
a book about the lives of the great composers


written very big [= huge]:
A great crowd had gathered.
A great iron stove filled half the room.

doing something a lot

used to emphasize that someone does something a lot
a great talker/reader/admirer etc
Anthony's a great talker - sometimes you just can't get a word in.
Len was a great believer in the power of positive thinking.
be a great one for doing something
She's a great one for telling stories about her schooldays.

great big

spoken very big:
Get your great big feet off my table!

to a greater or lesser extent

used to emphasize that something is always true, even though it is more true or noticeable in some situations than others:
Most companies operate in conditions that are to a greater or lesser extent competitive.

be no great shakes

informal to not be very good, interesting, or skilful:
The work's no great shakes, but at least I'm earning.

be going great guns

informal to be doing something extremely well:
After a slow start, the Tigers are going great guns.


spoken informal used when you are disappointed or annoyed about something:
'Daniel's cancelled the party.' 'Oh great!'

animal/bird/plant etc

used in the names of some animals or plants, especially when they are bigger than other animals or plants of the same type:
the Great Crested Grebe

the great outdoors

informal the countryside, considered as enjoyable and healthy:
He had a taste for adventure and the great outdoors.

great minds (think alike)

spoken used humorously when you and another person have had the same idea

the greater good

a general advantage that you can only gain by losing or harming something that is considered less important:
Some wars are fought for the greater good.

the great and the good

people who are considered important - used humorously

the great apes

the different types of animals that are similar to large monkeys, considered as a group:
Alone of the great apes, the gorilla is not very efficient at using tools.

the great divide

a situation in which there is a big difference between groups in society, areas of a country etc, for example a big difference between their wealth or attitudes:
The great divide between north and south seems to be as unbridgeable as ever.

Greater London/Los Angeles/Manchester etc

SG London, Los Angeles etc and its outer areas

huge/enormous great

British English spoken used to emphasize how big something is

Great Scott!/Great Heavens!

spoken old-fashioned used to express shock or surprise

great with child

literary very soon to have a baby
greatness noun [uncountable]
She was destined for greatness.
very good: excellent, fantastic, wonderful, great, terrific, neat American English, superb, amazing, outstanding, brilliant, impressive, fine, first-class, out of this world

of good quality: high quality, top quality, superior, deluxe, classy

morally good: decent, virtuous, respectable, honourable British English/honorable American English, upright, beyond reproach

See also

big, large, great
big and large have the same meaning, but large is slightly more formal and more likely to be used in written than spoken English a big lunch a large houselarge is used with quantity words such as 'number' and 'amount' large amounts of money a large proportion of the studentsgreat is not usually used to talk about size but it can be used in literary writing to describe very large and impressive things Before them stood a great palace.great is used with length, height, and age, and in the expression a great deal (=a lot) The grass had reached a great height. a great deal of moneyWORD CHOICE: big, tall, highbig is not used just to describe a person's height. It is used to describe a child who is growing, or a person who is heavy, with a lot of fat or muscle on their body.tall is used to describe a person's height. It can also be used to describe trees, buildings, or other things that are narrow and measure a long distance from bottom to top She is tall and thin. the tallest building in Londonhigh is used to describe things or places that are a long way from the ground a high shelf the highest mountain in the worldSee also big

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