the great and the good people in a given sphere regarded as particularly worthy and admirable; the term is first recorded in the mid 19th century, but is now often used ironically.
Great Bear in astronomy, the constellation Ursa Major, named from the story in Greek mythology that the nymph Callisto was turned into a bear and placed as a constellation in the heavens by Zeus.
Great Bible the edition of the English Bible which Thomas Cromwell ordered in 1538 to be set up in every parish church. It was the work of Miles Coverdale, and was first issued in 1539.
a great book is a great evil a long book is likely to be verbose and badly written. The saying is recorded in English from the early 17th century, but is found earlier in Greek in the writings of the Hellenistic poet and scholar Callimachus (c.305–c.240 bc), ‘the great book is equal to a great evil.’
Great Divide another name for the Continental Divide or Great Dividing Range.
Great Exhibition the first international exhibition of the products of industry, promoted by Prince Albert and held in the Crystal Palace in London in 1851.
the great game spying; the term in this sense is first recorded in Rudyard Kipling's Kim (1901).
a great gulf fixed an unbridgeable difference; originally with biblical allusion to Luke 16:26, in the words of Abraham to Dives in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the beggar.
Great Lakes a group of five large interconnected lakes in central North America, consisting of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, and constituting the largest area of fresh water in the world. Lake Michigan is wholly within the US, and the others lie on the Canada–US border. Connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the St Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes form an important commercial waterway. The Great Lake State is an informal name for Michigan.
Great Leap Forward an unsuccessful attempt made under Mao Zedong in China 1958–60 to hasten the process of industrialization and improve agricultural production by reorganizing the population into large rural collectives and adopting labour-intensive industrial methods.
the great majority the dead; often in join the great majority, die, originally from the poet Edward Young (1683–1765) ‘Death joins us to the great majority.’ The same idea is found earlier in the writing of the 1st-century ad Roman satirist Petronius, ‘Abiit ad plures [He's gone to join the majority].’
great minds think alike proverbial saying, early 17th century, now often used ironically; early forms of the proverb included great wits do jump alike.
Great Mother another name for the Mother Goddess.
great oaks from little acorns grow great results may ensue from apparently small beginnings. Proverbial saying, late 14th century.
Great Plague a serious outbreak of bubonic plague in England in 1665–6, in which about one fifth of the population of London died, and which was the last major outbreak in Britain.
Great Schism the breach between the Eastern and the Western Churches, traditionally dated to 1054 and becoming final in 1472. The excommunications of 1054 were abolished as an ecumenical gesture in 1965. The name is also used for the period 1378–1417, when the Western Church was divided by the creation of antipopes.
Great Spirit the supreme god in the traditional religion of many North American Indians, a translation of Ojibwa kitchi manitou.
Great Trek the northward migration 1835–7 of large numbers of Boers, discontented with British rule in the Cape, to the areas where they eventually founded the Transvaal Republic and Orange Free State.
the great unwashed a derogatory term for the lower classes, the rabble, recorded from the mid 19th century.
Great Wall of China a fortified wall in northern China, extending some 2,400 km (1,500 miles) from Kansu province to the Yellow Sea north of Beijing. It was first built c.210 bc, as a protection against nomad invaders. The present wall dates from the Ming dynasty. Although principally a defensive wall, it served also as a means of communication: for most of its length it was wide enough to allow five horses to travel abreast.
Great War another name for the First World War; the term in this sense is recorded from 1914.
Great Wen an archaic nickname for London, a phrase originally coined by William Cobbett in Rural Rides (1821).
Great White Way a nickname for Broadway in New York City, with reference to the brilliant street illumination.
Great Zimbabwe a complex of stone ruins in a fertile valley in Zimbabwe, south of Harare, discovered by Europeans in 1868. They are the remains of a city which was the centre of a flourishing civilization in the 14th and 15th centuries. The buildings consist of an acropolis, a stone enclosure, and other scattered remains. The circumstances of its eventual decline and abandonment are unknown.
See also death is the great leveller, greater, greatest, little strokes fell great oaks.
great / grāt/ • adj. 1. of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average: the article was of great interest she showed great potential as an actor. ∎ very large and imposing: a great ocean between them. ∎ used to reinforce another adjective of size or extent: a great big grin. ∎ used to express surprise, admiration, or contempt, esp. in exclamations: you great oaf! ∎ (also greater) used in names of animals or plants that are larger than similar kinds, e.g., great auk, greater flamingo. ∎ (Greater) (of a city) including adjacent urban areas: Greater Cleveland. 2. of ability, quality, or eminence considerably above the normal or average: the great Italian conductor we obeyed our great men and leaders great art has the power to change lives. ∎ (the Great) a title denoting the most important person of the name: Alexander the Great. ∎ inf. very good or satisfactory; excellent: this has been another great year what a great guy wouldn't it be great to have him back?| [as interj.] “Great!” said Tom. ∎ inf. (of a person) very skilled or capable in a particular area: a brilliant man, great at mathematics. 3. denoting the element of something that is the most important or the most worthy of consideration: the great thing is the challenge. ∎ used to indicate that someone or something particularly deserves a specified description: I was a great fan of Hank's. 4. [in comb.] (in names of family relationships) denoting one degree further removed upward or downward: great-aunt great-granddaughter great-great-grandfather. • n. 1. a great or distinguished person: the Beatles, Bob Dylan, all the greats. ∎ [as pl. n.] (the great) great people collectively: the lives of the great, including Churchill and Newton. 2. (Greats) Brit., inf. another term for literae humaniores. • adv. inf. excellently; very well: we played awful, they played great. PHRASES: great and small of all sizes, classes, or types: all creatures great and small. a great dealsee deal1 . a great manysee many. a great one for a habitual doer of; an enthusiast for: my father was a great one for buying gadgets. Great Scott! expressing surprise or amazement. to a great extent in a substantial way; largely: we are all to a great extent the product of our culture.
Hence greatly XII, greatness late OE.