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Often used to indicate status as well as size.

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.


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