Meaning of “great” in the English Dictionary

"great" in British English

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uk /ɡreɪt/ us /ɡreɪt/

great adjective (BIG)

A2 large in amount, size, or degree:

an enormous great hole
The issue is of great importance to voters.
The improvement in water standards over the last 50 years has been very great.
A great many people would agree.
The great majority of (= almost all) people would agree.
formal It gives us great pleasure to announce the engagement of our daughter Maria.
formal It is with great sorrow that I inform you of the death of our director.
I have great sympathy for you.
I spent a great deal of time there.

[ before noun ] used in names, especially to mean large or important:

a Great Dane (= large type of dog)
Catherine the Great
the Great Wall of China
the Great Bear (= group of stars)
greater than specialized

larger in number or amount than:

X must be equal to or greater than 10.

More examples

  • A great number of women used to die in childbirth.
  • For a goalkeeper, it's a great advantage to have big hands.
  • He's a great comfort to his mother.
  • She has finally got the job she wanted, but at great personal cost .
  • The pay differential between workers and management is too great.

great adjective (FAMOUS)

B2 approving famous, powerful, or important as one of a particular type:

a great politician/leader/artist/man/woman
This is one of Rembrandt's greatest paintings.
Who do you think is the greatest modern novelist?

More examples

  • The cinematic effects in her films are clearly borrowed from the great film-makers of the past.
  • Rome, Carthage and Athens were some of the great city-states of the ancient world.
  • Gathered all together in this church, we commemorate those who lost their lives in the great war.
  • As a child, he aspired to be a great writer.
  • Despite her limitations as an actress, she was a great entertainer.

great adjective (EXTREME)

More examples

  • We're living in a time of great change.
  • The numerous awards on the walls bear witness to his great success.
  • It takes great skill to weave a basket from/out of rushes.
  • To my great surprise, they agreed to all our demands.
  • The George Cross is a decoration that is bestowed on British civilians for acts of great bravery.

great adjective (GOOD)

A1 informal very good:

a great idea
We had a great time last night at the party.
It's great to see you after all this time!
"I'll lend you the car if you like." "Great! Thanks a lot!"
"What's your new teacher like?" "Oh, he's great."
"How are you feeling now?" "Great."

informal used to mean that something is very bad:

Oh great ! That's all I need - more bills!

More examples

  • Everyone says it's a great movie, but I think it's overrated.
  • My new hiking boots will be great once I've broken them in.
  • Ireland boasts beautiful beaches, great restaurants and friendly locals.
  • I think the party was great.
  • There's a great film on TV at midnight.
noun [ U ] uk /ˈɡreɪt.nəs/ us /ˈɡreɪt.nəs/

B2 skill and importance:

Her greatness as a writer is unquestioned.

greatadverb [ before noun ], adjective

uk /ɡreɪt/ us /ɡreɪt/ informal

B2 used to emphasize the meaning of another word:

a great big spider
a great long queue
You great idiot!
Pat's a great friend of mine.

More examples

  • They left a great enormous pile of washing-up in the sink.
  • Take your great fat hands off my private things, you!
  • Who parked that horrible great lorry right outside my window?
  • She had a whopping great bruise on her arm.
  • He just stood there with a silly great grin on his face.

greatnoun [ C ]

uk /ɡreɪt/ us /ɡreɪt/


uk /ɡreɪt-/ us /ɡreɪt-/

used with a word for a family member to mean one generation away from that member:

your great-grandmother (= the grandmother of one of your parents)
your great-grandson (= the grandson of your child)

More examples

  • This is your great-uncle George. He's Daddy's uncle.
  • I have seven grandchildren, and lots of great-nephews and -nieces.
  • Adelia was my great-aunt and a very grand old lady.
  • He is the great-great-grandson of Sigmund Freud.
  • We found the graves of my great-great-grandfather and his first and second wives.

(Definition of “great” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"great" in American English

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greatadjective [ -er/-est only ]

us /ɡreɪt/

great adjective [ -er/-est only ] (LARGE)

large or unusually large in amount or degree:

the Great Lakes
He went on to great success as an actor.
There was a great deal of (= a lot of) excitement in the classroom before lunch.

great adjective [ -er/-est only ] (IMPORTANT)

important, powerful, or famous:

a great president
a great athlete

great adjective [ -er/-est only ] (GOOD)

infml very good or very effective; excellent:

We had a great time.
She has a great voice.
This stuff is great for cleaning windows.
noun [ U ] us /ˈɡreɪt·nəs/

Her greatness as a writer is beyond question.

greatnoun [ C ]

us /ɡreɪt/

great noun [ C ] (IMPORTANT PERSON)

a famous person in a particular area of activity:

This sports facility is named after the tennis great Arthur Ashe.


us /ˌɡreɪt/

great- prefix (FAMILIES)

used with a word for a family member, such as grandmother, to mean one generation older than that family member:


(Definition of “great” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)