When should I use each of them? For example, in the following sentence, are they both okay? If neither is okay, what should we use?

Overall, people in all five nations allocate _____ of their income to food and drinks.

Note that here food and drinks constitute 35% of the total income, and it's the largest spending category given.

What if it were 51%? Would the answer change? Should we only use the major part and the majority when it accounts for more than 50% of the total? If that's the case, what should we use?

Thank you in advance!


1 Answer 1


The majority is defined as "a number or percentage equaling more than half of a total".

In elections the word plurality is used for the largest number of votes even if it's less than 50%: "a number of votes cast for a candidate in a contest of more than two candidates that is greater than the number cast for any other candidate but not more than half the total votes cast". It might be used for the largest, but it is quite an obscure word - Merriam-Webster restricts its use to elections.

In your case with less than 50%, the best option is a superlative like "largest":

Overall, people in all five nations allocate the largest part of their income to food and drinks.

This indicates it is greater than all other parts, without having to be any particular value.

"Major" as in "the major part" is commonly used for the larger of two things; Merriam-Webster defines it as "greater in dignity, rank, importance, or interest". But in practice it's often used with more than two, so it wouldn't stand out as wrong even if pedants might object it means "bigger of two".

  • Thank you for responding! So to conclude, I can use "the major part" and "the largest part" whatever percentage the category makes up, as long as it's the largest, but I should only use the majority when it accounts for more than 50% of the total, right?
    – Ken Adams
    Dec 5, 2023 at 11:45
  • Another question is that people argue we shouldn't use "the majority" with uncountable nouns. Is that correct?
    – Ken Adams
    Dec 5, 2023 at 11:47
  • @KenAdams - With uncountable nouns you usually say "most of" as in "He drank most of his water." Dec 5, 2023 at 16:04

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