What does the word “great” mean to you?

Today is the first day of my All Things Great Project.

Since the age of eight, I have been obsessed with pursuing “great things” but never defined what great was. Over thirty years later, I still don’t feel like I have reached my true potential. In an attempt to better define my childhood dream of “doing great things”, I started a project focused on All Things Great. I intend to share my progress to better understand my childhood goal, and help anyone else wondering the same thing.

Starting with the definition seemed like the most logical place to start my project. I learned that the word great can be used as an adjective, noun, or adverb. You will also see the word as an interjection (e.g. Great! I just missed the last bus of the day) and in idioms (e.g. great with child).

For the purposes of my research, I chose to list only the adjectives and nouns as they relate to what a person does or is. As you will see, there isn’t just one definition. Below are a few of my results:

  • Merriam-Webster (adjective): Eminent or distinguished (e.g. a great poet); chief or imminent over others (often used in titles); markedly superior in character or quality; noble; remarkably skilled (e.g. great at tennis); marked by enthusiasm. As a noun: an outstandingly superior or skillful person (e.g. a tribute to the greats of baseball)
  • Oxford Dictionary (adjective): Of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above average; Of ability, quality, or eminence considerably above average; informal (of a person) very skilled in a particular area. As a noun: An important or distinguished person.
  • Cambridge Dictionaryimportantpowerful, or famous; very good or very effectiveexcellent. As a noun: a famous person in a particular area of activity. 

I found several other online dictionaries that define the word great with similar definitions to the above meanings. They range from an action slightly above average which could refer to practically anything to an outstandingly superior person to a person of noble heritage.

I should have known that I would find numerous definitions. I clearly have my work cut out for me! Figuring out what great means to me is going to be a long process!

What is your definition of great?

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