MAJOR (Lat. for "greater"), a word used, both as a substan tive and adjective, for that which is greater than another in size, quality, degree, importance, etc. ; often opposed correlatively to that which is "minor" in the same connotation. In the cate gorical syllogism in logic, the "major term" is the term which forms the predicate of the conclusion, the "major premise" is that which contains the major term. Major as part of an official title in mediaeval Latin has given the Spanish mayor, French moire and English mayor (q.v.). In English the unadapted form "major" is the title of a military officer now ranking between a captain and a lieutenant-colonel.
Originally the military term was used adjectivally in the title sergeant-major, the "third principal officer in a regiment" (Ward 1639), now the major. In the 16th and 17th centuries there was a similarity between the duties of the sergeant, sergeant-major and sergeant-major-general, in that they attended to the drill and administration of a company, a regiment and an army, respectively. In conversation sergeant-major was abbreviated to major and sergeant-major-general to major-general, whence the modern titles of major and major-general derive. In the case of sergeant-major the "sergeant" was dropped generally about 166o, although in some quarters it lingered for some years later.
Up to about the beginning of the 18th century majors, in com mon with other field-officers, had companies, the executive com mand being in the hands of a lieutenant. Majors have now dis placed lieutenant-colonels as seconds-in-command of units, though junior majors now command companies, squadrons and batteries.
In those armies where the regiment corresponds to a brigade (of three or four battalions), majors command battalions, while the regiment is commanded by a colonel. In the 17th century the duties of a major were a combination of those now performed by the major (second-in-command) and sergeant-major, but on the introduction of adjutants he was relieved of much of the routine work and assumed the more important duties of second in-command. The brigade-major corresponds in a higher sphere to the adjutant of a battalion. Such expressions as "town-major" and "fort-major" indicate the purpose of the appointment.
Drum-major was an ancient title in the British service, until it was abolished in 1881 to be substituted by sergeant-drummer, which in turn was abolished in 1928 on the re-introduction of drum-major. The title sergeant-major was introduced as a non commissioned rank in the British service early in the 18th century and was elevated to warrant rank in 1881. The equivalent term in the Household Cavalry is corporal-major.