Definition of great adjective from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



greater, greatest


1 much more than average in degree or quantitya matter of great importanceThe concert had been a great success.Her death was a great shock to us all.It gives me great pleasure to welcome you here today.Take great care of it.You've been a great help.We are all to a great extent the products of our culture.2 [usually before noun] very large; much bigger than average in size or quantityA great crowd had gathered.People were arriving in great numbers.The great majority of (= most) people seem to agree with this view.He must have fallen from a great height.A great many people died in the attack.3 [only before noun] (informal) used to emphasize an adjective of size or qualityThere was a great big pile of books on the table. note at big


4 extremely good in ability or quality and therefore admired by many peopleHe has been described as the world's greatest violinist.Sherlock Holmes, the great detectiveGreat art has the power to change lives.This represents a great achievement.


5 (informal) very good or pleasantHe's a great guy.It's great to see you again.What a great goal!We had a great time in Miami.“I'll pick you up at seven.” “That would be great, thanks.”“Tom's coming too.” “Great!”(ironic)Oh great, they left without us.


6 [not usually before noun] great at (doing) something (informal) able to do something wellShe's great at chess.


7 great for (doing) something (informal) very suitable or useful for somethingThis gadget is great for opening jars.Try this cream—it's great for dry skin.


8 [only before noun] important and impressiveThe wedding was a great occasion.As the great day approached, she grew more and more nervous.One great advantage of this metal is that it doesn't rust.

with influence

9 having high status or a lot of influencethe great powers (= important and powerful countries)We can make this country great again.Alexander the Great

in good health

10 in a very good state of physical or mental healthShe seemed to be in great spirits (= very cheerful).I feel great today.I don't feel too great.Everyone's in great form.

for emphasis

11 [only before noun] used when you are emphasizing a particular description of someone/somethingWe are great friends.I've never been a great reader (= I do not read much).She's a great talker, isn't she?I am a great admirer of your work.


12 great- added to words for family members to show a further stage in relationshipmy great-aunt (= my father's or mother's aunt)her great-grandson (= the grandson of her son or daughter)my great-great-grandfather (= the grandfather of my grandfather)

larger animals/plants

13 [only before noun] used in the names of animals or plants which are larger than similar kindsa Great Dane

city name

14 Greater used with the name of a city to describe an area that includes the center of the city and a large area all around itGreater Chicago
noun [uncountable]

be going great guns

(informal) to be doing something quickly and successfullyWork is going great guns going great guns

be greater/more than the sum of its parts

to be better or more effective as a group than you would think just by looking at the individual members of the group
be greater than the sum of its partsbe more than the sum of its parts

be a great one for (doing) something

to do something a lot; to enjoy something
I've never been a great one for writing a great one forbe a great one for doing

be no great shakes

(informal) to be not very good, efficient, suitable, no great shakes

great and small

of all sizes or types
all creatures great and smallgreat and small

the great …in the sky

(humorous) used to refer to where a particular person or thing is imagined to go when they die or are no longer working, similar to the place they were connected with on earthTheir pet rabbit had gone to the great rabbit hutch in the sky.the great in the sky

great minds think alike

(informal, humorous) used to say that you and another person must both be very smart because you have had the same idea or agree about somethinggreat minds think alike

great/tall oaks from little acorns grow

(saying) something large and successful often begins in a very small waygreat oaks from little acorns growtall oaks from little acorns grow

take (great) pains (to do something)


go to great pains (to do something)

to put a lot of effort into doing something
The couple went to great pains to keep their plans secret.take painstake great pains to do

take (great) pains with/over something

to do something very carefully
He always takes great pains with his lectures.take pains withtake great pains withtake pains overtake great pains over
Usage noteUsage note: greatcool fantastic fabulous terrific awesomeThese are all informal words that describe someone or something that is very good, pleasant, enjoyable, etc.great (informal) very good; giving a lot of pleasure: We had a great time in (informal) used to show that you admire or approve of something, often because it is fashionable, attractive, or different: I think their new song's really cool.fantastic (informal) extremely good; giving a lot of pleasure: I had a fantastic vacation in Mexico.fabulous (informal) extremely good: Jane's a fabulous cook. (Fabulous is slightly more old-fashioned than the other words in this set.)terrific (informal) extremely good; wonderful: She's doing a terrific job.awesome (informal) very good, impressive, or enjoyable: The show was just awesome.patternsto have a(n) great/fantastic/fabulous/terrific/awesome timeto look/sound great/cool/fantastic/fabulous/terrific/awesomereally great/cool/fantastic/fabulous/terrific/awesomeabsolutely great/fantastic/fabulous/terrific/awesomeUsage noteUsage note: big large greatThese adjectives are frequently used with the following nouns:
big ~large ~great ~
Large is more formal than big and should be used in writing unless it is in an informal style. It is not usually used to describe people, except to avoid saying “fat.”Great often suggests quality and not just size. Note also the phrases: a large amount of a large number of a large quantity of a great deal of in great detail a person of great age.