Is it majorly wrong to use ‘minorly’?

Are you slightly disturbed by this word small? If so, you’re not alone. In a completely unscientific Twitter poll conducted by one of our lexicographers, only 14% of respondents said they thought it was a very good word; 32% confirmed it wasn’t really a word, while 40% admitted it was a word but not a word they would use. The remaining 14% expressed reservations about using the word despite its usefulness.

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‘Small’ is real

small is, of course, a word, as evidenced by the fact that it looks, smells, and acts like a word—most importantly, by conveying meaning. And it’s not a new word. Currently, our earliest evidence of its use is from 1840, from this disturbing artifact:

[P]Despite the abolition of slavery, property in West India owed its value primarily to the number of slaves on the estate; second, because of the buildings on that property; and lastly, and secondly, for the land. — Report from the Commission, 5: East Indies ProductionJanuary 16 – August 11, 1840

In the early 20th century, it was not uncommon for newspaper readers to occasionally come across small:

Furthermore, as an innocent, lively and somewhat poetic story, it is well-deserved for the enduring popularity that it has enjoyed as a stage set as well as as a novel.—Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), October 4, 1915

This year will be the biggest year the radio industry has ever seen. While sporting events and elections bear little responsibility, it is the active speakers who are the main contributors.The star St.Louis (St. Louis, MO), October 23, 1928

They drove at a slow speed so they only suffered minor injuries.—Greenville News (Greenville, NC), July 6, 1932

However, the word is not spellchecked and not entered into many dictionaries, never reaching the level of usage of synonyms like limit And lightlydespite its long history.

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Why do people love ‘Majorly’?

Here’s another example of how English defies simple logic: primarily has a place in all major English dictionaries, and spell check found no angry red squiggly lines underneath it. What about stone people? It even seems to have started a little later than small:

“Church-goers, mainly, are looking for the right path…”—Morning Star Muncie (Muncie, IN), December 18, 1933

Gardner’s reputation is your guarantee. When a company has a good reputation and knows that its business depends primarily on it, there is reason for our employees to do nothing to jeopardize that goodwill.— (Advt. ) Piqua’s Daily Call (Piqua, OH), July 30, 1936

Why primarily get a pass small usually not? Maybe—just maybe—it’s because some people think primarily mostly great. By that we mean that it is used in phrases such as “very wonderful” and “very wonderful” as a slang synonym of extremely:

We’ve all been like this: You’re rocking a great dress or skirt and you walk near a fan or the wind blows, and boom—you’ve got a serious wardrobe malfunction shirt. — Alyssa Hardy, Teen fashionJuly 27, 2017

Batman doesn’t need to set up an Ello profile or casually mention that he’s upset about Crystal Castles disbanding to stay “relevant”. So why should Batgirl? — Barry Thomson, Paste magazineOctober 10, 2014

By lending so well to slang and informal use, primarily may have achieved the overall acceptance that its more engaged sibling has evaded.

We cannot say for sure that this is the explanation why primarily more widely used and accepted than smallbut we can say that the problem is common small Is there really only a small problem for small. That word is a word, and it’s fine to use when it suits your needs. And if you don’t like it, that’s fine too. We won’t be upset even a little bit.

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Categories: Usage Notes

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