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See also: main-mast


The sailing ship Balclutha, showing (from left to right) its mizzenmast, mainmast, and foremast.
The battleship HMS Dreadnought, showing its prominent foremast (the tallest portion of the ship) and stub mainmast (the small mast between the two aft turrets).

Alternative forms[edit]


From main +‎ mast.



mainmast (plural mainmasts)

  1. (nautical) The tallest mast of a sailing ship that has more than one mast; particularly a full-rigged ship.
    • c. 1610–1611 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Winters Tale”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene iii]:
      O, the most piteous cry of the poor souls! sometimes to see ’em, and not to see ’em; now the ship boring the moon with her main-mast, and anon swallowed with yest and froth, as you’ld thrust a cork into a hogshead.
    • 1726 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], “A Great Storm Described, the Long-Boat Sent to Fetch Water, the Author Goes with It to Discover the Country. []”, in Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [], volume I, London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], →OCLC, part II (A Voyage to Brobdingnag), page 58:
      Then turning to his first Minister, who waited behind him with a white Staff near as tall as the Main-mast of the Royal Soveraign, he observed how contemptible a thing was human Grandeur, which could be mimicked by such diminutive Insects as I []
    • 1789, Olaudah Equiano, chapter 11, in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano[1]:
      When we were in the latitude of Martinico, and near making the land, one morning we had a brisk gale of wind, and, carrying too much sail, the main-mast went over the side.
    • 1851 November 14, Herman Melville, chapter 96, in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, →OCLC:
      The try-works are planted between the foremast and mainmast, the most roomy part of the deck.
    • 1928, Virginia Woolf, Orlando: A Biography, London: The Hogarth Press, →OCLC; republished as Orlando: A Biography (eBook no. 0200331h.html), Australia: Project Gutenberg Australia, July 2015:
      [] skating farther than their wont that day they reached that part of the river where the ships had anchored and been frozen in midstream. Among them was the ship of the Muscovite Embassy flying its double-headed black eagle from the main mast, which was hung with many-coloured icicles several yards in length.
  2. (nautical) The second-foremost mast of a non-sailing ship with more than one mast.

Usage notes[edit]

  • On a ship with three or more masts, it is usually (on sailing ships) or always (on non-sailing ships) the second mast from the bow.

Derived terms[edit]


See also[edit]