2

I hear the term 'majorly' being used often these days and wanted to check the correctness of it. For example,

This article is majorly flawed.

And likewise,

The customer was majorly upset.

If this usage is considered informal, what is a more formal alternative word to 'majorly'?

5
  • 3
    Majorly is majorly informal. The article is badly flawed; the customer was extremely upset.
    – ab2
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 0:41
  • It may not be liked by some, but it's a word that's used in such a way. You can look at a thesaurus for alternatives. Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 0:42
  • 2
    Welcome! I believe that Vice Overlord for Wretched Neologism Sir Reginald Kerr-Mudgeon has designated majorly for immediate oxborification...
    – Rob_Ster
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 0:46
  • Sir Reggie reportedly prefers "significantly" or "severely", for example...
    – Rob_Ster
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 0:47
  • 1
    There is no "correct" or "incorrect". That would be prescriptivism. The only problem with saying "majorly" is that it makes you sound like a teen age girl. If you don't mind that, or if that's the effect you're aiming for, go ahead.
    – bof
    Commented Feb 2, 2019 at 6:50

2 Answers 2

2

Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) provides this entry for the word majorly, without any hint that it is informal:

majorly adv (1956) : in a major way a : PRIMARILY [definition] 1 ["for the most part: CHIEFLY"] {was majorly a poet} b : EXTREMELY [definition] 1 ["in an extreme manner"] {was majorly annoyed}

But Pamela Munro, Slang U. (1989/1991) treats majorly in Merriam-Webster's second sense not merely as slang but specifically as collegiate slang—and further as slang derived from major used in a very similar sense:

major extreme, complete and total, important, big | My roommate's boyfriend is a major nerd, complete with polyester pants, a plastic pocket protector, and slicked-back hair. | I have the major headache. ...

majorly extremely, really, a lot | My mechanical engineering class is majorly hard—I'll be lucky to get a C. | I am majorly stressed about the exam on Tuesday.

Etymology Online, meanwhile, has this entry for majorly:

majorly (adv.) by 1887, from major (adj.) + -ly (2). Common in popular U.S. colloquial speech from c. 1995.


Very early instances of 'majorly'

A Google Books search turns up three matches for majorly from the late 1800s, including one from 1887, which may be the one that etymology online alludes to. From a letter to the editor, dated January 24, 1887, from David Hunt of Iowa Falls, Iowa, published in Friends' Review: A Religious, Literary and Miscellaneous Journal (1887):

On reading an article in the Friends' Review, current Vol., No. 24, page 382, signed A. E., and considering that said paper had a wide circulation and is accepted as good authority, the editor being careful in publishing statements that were calculated to reflect unfavorably on the character of individuals or of the church, yet judging from the tenor of said article we suppose Friends who are unacquainted would infer therefrom that Friends of Iowa Yearly Meeting were majorly in favor of adopting the ordinances of other churches. Whereas we have some knowledge of Friends in all our Quarterly Meetings; but we do not know of one minister and only one member that believes in, or would tolerate the introduction of ordinances among us, yet there may be others.

Here the meaning of majorly appears to be "as a majority," which is not among the meanings that Merriam-Webster lists for the word.

From "Girlish Gurglings of Pretty Prattlers, or Charming Co-ed's Conversations," in The Blue and the Gold (the yearbook of the University of California at Berkeley), volume 15 (1888):

"Isn't it provoking ; you can never tell anyone in drill?" "Why, yes, you can. I can always find Ed. Hyde. Somehow I like such bright boys as he is. He's the North Star of the battalion. You can always find the others by him."

"Just look at Melone and Steffens. They look like the giraffe and monkey in a circus."

"Steffens has a fine, majorly bearing, anyway, if he is short."

The meaning of majorly in this instance is "like a major [a particular rank of commissioned officer]." I haven't found any other instances of the word used in this sense.

And from William O'Brien, When We Were Boys: A Novel (1890):

'But, Jack, you are not really going going for good?'

'For you fellows' good, yes—majorly excommunicated, exorcised, banished—maledictus ingrediens, maledictus egrediens. Lot me do the Doctor justice. He did not preach. "There is nothing for it but to pack your trunk, you know, Jack, of course," says the Doctor. "Of course, sir," say I. ...'

The meaning of majorly here seems to me to be closer to "extremely" than to "chiefly" or "primarily." This is an Irish English usage, however, and it may be unconnected to the subsequent U.S. usage in the sense of "extremely" or "seriously" that seems to have emerged in the 1970s.


'Majorly' in the sense of 'primarily'

Elephind and Google Books searches turn up a number of matches for majorly in the sense of "primarily" or "chiefly." The earliest of these is from Ralph Bell, "Familiar Stories of Famous People: Erhardt Malz," in the [Cleveland, Ohio] Reserve Weekly (November 29, 1916):

Last year Eddie juggled dollars for the junior class. This year he is juggling six subjects for good grades to the consternation of the professors.

He's going to "fox" 'em, b'gosh! He wallows in Economics majorly, and Philosophy minorly. With many of us, Eddie is not positive what course he will pursue to fame and fortune. We suspect he is not particular, so long as a cozy little home and frau dream come true.

The speaker is playing with the notion of academic majors and minors in his use of majorly and minorly here. I get the impression that he wouldn't have used majorly outside this special context.

From "Ohio Cities Increases Capital Stock From $10,000,000 to $100,000,000," in The Gas Record (June 13, 1917):

No arrangements were made for distribution of the new stock. The tentative plan to distribute a stock dividend has been abandoned. The stock of the Ohio Cities is majorly held by a few individuals of large income. A stock dividend is considered the same as cash by the government and subject to income tax.

And from a letter to the editor by superintendent A. A. Fisk of the Racine, Wisconsin, Board of Park Commissioners, in The Playground (August 1917):

With our public recreation, we find that it is nothing short of chaos. In some cities the board of education is made majorly responsible for recreational activities; in other cities, there is a recreation commission; and in other cities, perhaps, it is the board of park commissioners; and in still another city, it is a combination of all these bodies who are over-lapping one another, and it has seemed to me for some few years that if all public recreation was headed up under the board of park commissioners that we could render much more efficient service because this one board would sense in a major way, the responsibility.

The preceding two examples—coming about forty years after the first published instance of majorly that I'm aware of—are the first unmistakable examples I found of majorly being used to mean "in a major way." The remaining examples in this section provide instances of similar usage.

From "Persinger's Plastic Persiflage" in the [Chicago, Illinois] Daily National Hotel Reporter (December 23, 1918):

He is a rotunda rialtoan, welcomely met, with surveying eye, absorbful auriculars, and a sort of confidante depository, hence the frequent advance and exclusive "tips" that trek north, batly stunning and often bluffy or at first denied, but eventually or outcomely reiterating that telltale smoke majorly comes from bedded or lidded fire.

It appears that majorly has the same meaning here, although the writer's word choice in general seems to have taken a premature turn toward the future world of Finnegan's Wake.

From an unidentified article in Biennial Report, volume 22 (1926) [combined snippets]:

Quadrimaculatus existed in limited quantities and were fairly well distributed under general conditions throughout the territory. They appear prominently where efforts were confined to territory of the type most suited to them. This again supports original indications, that while the territory was by nature majorly of Punctipennis producing proclivities, it also would be subject to local Quadrimaculatus production.

From an unidentified item in National Retail Merchants Association, Bulletin, volume 8 (1926) [combined snippets]:

We carried our slogan throughout the campaign "A Tribute to the Genius, Skill and Craftsmanship of American Industries." We recognized that by far the greater majority of merchandise distributed in retail stores is conceived and developed in American mills and factories. We wanted our customers to know the fact. We were proud to tell them that our merchandise was majorly the work of the hands and brains of American workmen. It was a distinct pleasure and privilege to point towards the wonderful progress achieved by American industrial leaders.

From "Our Readers," in the Muncie [Indiana] Post-Democrat (August 30, 1929):

When our state was organized we had no public school system worthy of the name. Teachers were usually paid majorly by subscriptions or by donations from the patrons. Part of their compensation was received by "boarding around" among the families in the district. Little or no standard of excellence was fixed to determine their efficiency.

From an unidentified article in American Journal of Public Health and the Nation's Health (1934):

Motivation of the individual into improved health behavior depends majorly upon the choice of ideas, images, and emotional appeals which, utilizing his innate drives, will influence his mental attitudes and behavior, and consequently secure his cooperation in attainment of the desired objective.

From The Serodiagnosis of Syphilis (1939):

Some such men are in the audience, and I venture to predict that the next great meeting will be between the clinical syphilologists, the men fundamentally interested in clinical syphilis, and the men who are directly, majorly or minorly, interested in in laboratory syphilis. When that occasion comes, it will be a get-together that will bring out the entire police force of the locality, and they will have nothing to do.

From "Budgets and Taxes," a political advertisement in the San Bernardino [California] Sun (July 10, 1940):

Our trouble lies majorly with Government Spending in Washington. Its postage cost in 1932 was $9-1/10 million, now it is $36 million, and so it goes all along the Government Front. In the last ten years it increased its expenditures 155% whereas all State and Local Governments Spending increased only 45%. In the same time taxes increased about 45% while private income decreased 30%. There are 175,000 taxing units in the United States, each trying to get a larger share from the taxpayer. Today each one of us owes about $500 as his share of Government Debt which is almost double what it was 10 years ago.

From James Sims, "On Blindness," in the [Lincoln University, Pennsylvania] Lincolnian (May 12, 1941):

We forget that we are not a majorly important economic unit in the American economy, and that most businesses do not need our trade in order to survive. The theoretical balance of power we believe we hold in politics is not quite as true in economics.

From an unidentified item in the [Buffalo, New York] Central Railway Chronicle, volumes 50–53 (1942[?]):

We have been designated as the "Arsenal of Democracy" in a war majorly of steel and transportation. In our peace time years the railroads have needed steel for existence and the steel plants have needed the railroads to move products to our consuming plants.

From Margaret Mead, And Keep Your Powder Dry: An Anthropological Look at America (1942):

If they maintained the same status throughout the child's growing life, kept the necessary bit of ground or inheritance to start him off as befitted him, reared him to act and feel and believe in a way appropriate to "that state of life to which it has pleased God to call him," the parents had done their share. Their service to their child was majorly the maintenance of their own place in the world.

From George Bernstein, "Vet Who Saw Nazi Cruelty Blasts Talk of Soft Peace," " in the [Camp Shanks, New York] Palisades (August 3, 1945):

The 4th Division also tackled the Germans in two separate sectors of the Siegfried line, swept into Luxembourg and became swirled in the historic German counter attack of December 1944, when Von Rundstedt attempted to smash through our lines in the Battle of the Bulge. The 4th Division held at the left shoulder of Von Rundstedt's spearheads and was majorly responsible for thwarting the German counter thrust.

From "A Plague on Both Houses, Writes Cleveland Attorney," in the [Indianapolis, Indiana] Jewish Post (August 3, 1945):

If only the remaining Jews in the world could learn to value these warnings of their ancient prophets and each in his own sphere apply the wisdom of these teachings we will have majorly solved the terrible impasse which now confronts the Jew in America.

From "Operation Oxford in Review," in the [Lincoln University, Pennsylvania] Lincolnian (February 25, 1950):

The administration has also taken a stand, majorly in favor of the students . In a press release Dr. Horance Mann Bond stated that he was equally opposed to violence and discrimination.

From a letter by the chairman of the East Madera County Better Roads Committee to the editor of the Madera [California] Tribune (April 16, 1955):

Since this is a COUNTY organization, supported majorly by the taxpayers of the entire County of Madera, and the balance supported by Chamber of Commerce members all over the County of Madera, we feel that Mr. Jeter was most certainly justified in his refusal to devote his time entirely to calling on members in the city of Madera.

From M. Stanton Thames, "Rating the Records," in the [Lincoln University, Pennsylvania] Lincolnian (January 17, 1958):

This is an extraordinarily different LP, a new kind of music majorly performed by French musicians. Andre Hodeir, the renowned jazz critic, used his pen to arrange and compose good music instead of cutting down the perennial favorites of the jazz-fold. He takes a step forward in using three progressive approaches to jazz standards and his originals.

From Nancy Ceronsky, "Kit Stops Off at Home Between Europe Trips," in the Saline [Michigan] Reporter (May 27, 1959):

Another thing that struck him was the poverty in the Middle East, especially in Egypt. And, he adds, Lebanon has its share too. However, Lebanon seems to be the most advanced of the Middle Eastern countries and this probably is due to the fact that it is majorly a Christian nation. He found this country and the Leb[a]nese people to be very violent in nature. R[io]ts occur at the "mere drop of a hat."

And from "Facts About Immigration," in the [San Francisco, California] Vestkusten (April 8, 1965):

Mexicans comprise the largest single nationality group (611,950) residing majorly in California and Texas. Other large nationality groups, in order of size, are: Canadians, living in California and Michigan; British in California and New York; Germans, in California and New York; Italians, in New York and New Jersey; Poles, in New York and Illinois; Cubans in Florida and New York. According to 1960 census 27,041 residents in California were registered as born in Sweden.

All of these instances involve use of majorly in the sense of "primarily" or "to a large extent."


'Majorly' in the sense of 'extremely'

Instances where majorly functions as a slang or colloquial intensifier in the sense of "seriously" or "extremely" begin appearing in print by 1955. The following matches all use majorly in the intensifying sense, and all but one appear in publications during the period from 1978 to 1989.

From "A Belgian Interlude," in The Triangle of Mu Phi Epsilon (May 1955) [combined snippets]:

The Belgian Fulbright officials must have anticipated the array, for a large chartered bus and an impressively capacious van were awaiting us on the dock and made the large chartered bus and an impressively capacious van were awaiting us on the dock and made the four-hour trip to Brussels quite simple. ... It was during the discussion of the libraries which would be of special interest to musicologists that I first learned of the Stellfeld Library in Antwerp, with no prescience at the time, however, of how majorly involved in this treasure collection I should become before the year's end.

From Joe Mysak, "Kindly Advice," in the [Columbia [University, New York] Daily Spectator (August 31, 1978):

People were afraid to say what normal or decent was. The result was predictable: people getting away with all kinds of incredible garbage, ranging from the merely imbecilic to the majorly zany. People went around flaunting their vanity or stupidity or whatever it was, practically daring you to say something.

From Jeannine Guttman, "Coroner must practice Politics in the Midst of Medicine" in the San Bernardino [California] Sun (March 21, 1982):

Taking the office as a whole, Kaenel said he sees "nothing majorly wrong with the way it's running. I am concerned with the total overall cost of the operation."

From "Students Offer Thoughts on Changes Needed," in the Saline [Michigan] Reporter (March 26, 1986):

I think that Saline, being such a small community, needs many changes to keep up with neighboring cities. Businesses in Saline are growing definitely and I think it is keeping a lot of Saline people in Saline rather than going to Ann Arbor. The only thing it is majorly lacking is a shopping mall, but that's not a main concern since we are only 20 minutes away from Briarwood in Ann Arbor.

From Dawn-Elizabeth Treat, "Conner Finds Spiritual Cure After Injury" in the [Abilene, Texas] Optimist (February 24, 1987):

Back in Abilene on Wednesday, Patti saw her doctor and he scheduled her for surgery that Friday. The thought of surgery was terrifying.

"I was majorly scared about the surgery because I didn't know what they were going to do," she says.

From Harold Bunniemeister, "Mr. Axe Murderer Comes to Visit Frequently in 'Witchboard'," in the [Houston Texas] Rice Thresher (March 20, 1987):

When Jim figures out that his dear Linda is into it up to her armpits, he rushes home to save her. He arrives to Find the place trashed and a majorly possessed Linda, looking sharp in a black suit and taking batting practice with a large fire axe, originally located in reel two on the lobby wall.

From "Butcher Claims Third Straight Iditarod Win," in the San Bernardino [California] Sun (March 17, 1988):

"I could have left a few hours ago," she [Butcher] said early Wednesday in White Mountain. "But I just thought I'd wait for first daylight. I don't have pressure from behind, so unless I majorly screw up I should have it made."

From Rebekah Gibbs, "Fire Damages Students' House," in the [Abilene, Texas] Optimist (March 30, 1988):

"Everyone has been majorly helpful" Hickam said. He said they will live in one of the apartments belonging to Lynn Reeves, assistant professor of accounting, for the rest of the semester. They also have borrowed furniture.

And from Michele Jordan, "The Food of Politics," the Healdsburg [California] Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar (November 2, 1988):

Recently I was held prisoner on Highway 101 for a number of hours, two of which were spent at a dead standstill on the narrow stretch between Petaluma and Novato. ... While it was novel and mildly amusing to be walking along the center of the freeway, visiting with folks from other busses and other cars, it took a real effort not be majorly grumpy.

Searches continue to find some matches for majorly in its older sense of "primarily," but by the late 1980s these become less common than the matches for the majorly in the sense of "extremely."


Conclusions

Newspaper searches for majorly return matches from as early as 1916 (for majorly in the sense of "mainly," "primarily," or "to a large extent") and from as early as 1978 (for majorly in the sense of "seriously," "extremely," or "very").

Neither usage seems to be especially common, and the tenor of the articles in which it does appear—in either sense—doesn't seem to be particularly formal. Nevertheless, the longer it remains in use, the more likely it is to lose whatever stigma of informality or colloquialism it may still possess.

1
  • A good general discussion of the appearance and transition into the lexicon, and broadening, of parts of speech predicted by productivity considerations. A snag is that 'majorly' is used with two senses that could give rise to ambiguity, especially with the usage being so unfamiliar. 'My mechanical engineering class is majorly hard.' 'My mechanical engineering class is majorly majorly hard' is, I suppose, clearer. Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 17:49
0

I hear the term 'majorly' being used often these days and wanted to check the correctness of it.

Its usage is correct.

This article is majorly flawed / the customer was majorly upset.

This usage could be considered colloquial/informal.

If informal, what is an alternative?

See below for the different usages and senses of majorly from the OED and here for synonyms: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

  1. Adverb: greatly to a major degree; largely in the main
  2. Intensifier: colloq. (orig. U.S.) modifying an adjective: really, very.

Formal:

1997 Guardian 19 July 5 Doug Doretti, president of the company, said last night: ‘If this keeps happening it will majorly affect us.’

Informal:

1995 Gazette (Montreal) 22 Jan. f6 It was a real bachelor pad, majorly slimy.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.