Word Confusion: Main versus Mane

Posted June 27, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I cracked up when I read about the woman character combing her long main. I knew the author was referring to her hair, but I couldn’t help imagining, that in an alternate life, maybe this character was a detective combing the primary street she considers her own.

It is scary how a pair of heterograhs can send one’s imagination soaring…on a guffaw…

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Main Mane
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: main

An old Benjamin plug

“Multiplicador de Tomadas” is Felipe Micaroni Lalli’s own work under the CC BY-SA 2.5 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Plugging into the mains.

A world famous iconic image from the 1970s—the best-selling pinup poster of all time

“Farrah Fawcett, Iconic Pinup” is courtesy of Bruce McBroom of Pro Arts Inc., and first published in Life magazine in 1976, via Wikipedia

Farrah Fawcett is an actress whose mane of hair inspired millions of haircuts.

Part of Grammar:
Attrib. Adjective 1; Noun 1, 2; Proper Noun 3 Noun
Chief in size or importance

  • Principal
  • Leading


  • Utmost
  • As strength or force

Of or relating to a broad expanse

[Grammar] Syntactically independent

  • Capable of use in isolation

[Nautical] Of or relating to a mainmast

  • Noting or pertaining to a sail, yard, boom, etc., or to any rigging belonging to a mainmast
  • Noting any stay running aft and upward to the head of a mainmast

[Obsolete] Having or exerting great strength or force

  • Mighty
  • Having momentous or important results
  • Significant

A principal pipe carrying water or gas to buildings, or taking sewage from them

  • [British] A principal cable carrying electricity

[Archaic or literary] The open ocean

[Nautical] Short for mainsail or mainmast

[Usually mains] A main course in a meal

[Historical] A match between fighting cocks 2

A match in archery, boxing, etc.

[In the game of hazard] A number (5, 6, 7, 8, or 9) called by a player before dice are thrown

Proper Noun:
A river of southwestern Germany that rises in northern Bavaria and flows west for 310 miles (500 km), through Frankfurt to meet the Rhine River at Mainz.

a growth of long hair on the neck of a horse, lion, or other animal

  • A person’s long or thick hair
You can’t miss it, it’s the main road out of town.

The main problem is one of resources.

They took the gate by main force.

The explosion was the result of a faulty gas main. 1

The mains need to be rewired and updated.

We sail the ocean main!

Raise the mainsail!

A cannon ball hit the main and ended the battle.

The restaurant offers four mains: one chicken, two beef, and one fish.

He called a main and threw it last night, recouping his losses. 2

Proper Noun:
You can book a river cruise on the Main in Germany.

Vast forests, fairy-tale castles, imposing palaces and quaint medieval towns line the banks of the River Main.

His mane should be combed free of all those prickers.

Female lions don’t have a mane.

He had a thick mane of gorgeous white hair.

Adverb: mainly
Noun: mainline
Adjective: maned, maneless, unmaned
History of the Word:
1 Middle English from Old English mægen meaning physical force and reinforced by the Old Norse meginn, megn meaning strong, powerful. Both are from a Germanic base meaning have power.

2 Late 16th century is probably from the phrase main chance.

3 The Romans were the first to name the river (they called it the Moenus). It later makes an appearance — as the Meune — in the medieval German saga “The Song of the Niebelungs,” which first appeared in written form around AD 1200 (Main River Cruises).

Old English manu is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch manen.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Pinterest Photo Credits

Draft Mare and Foal, Fillongley Show 2010 by Amanda Slater is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

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