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main line

a principal line or route of a railroad, as contrasted with a branch or secondary one.
a principal highway.
  1. a prominent and readily accessible vein of the body that may be used for a narcotic's injection.
  2. the act of mainlining.
Origin of main line

Main Line

a fashionable residential district west of Philadelphia.
any fashionable district where socially prominent people live.
Related forms
Main-Line, adjective
Main-Liner, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for main-line
Historical Examples
  • There are some side-lines, with but two or three trains a day—side-lines that reach the main-line only through other branches.

    The Modern Railroad Edward Hungerford
  • I didn't want to advertise our troubles to a main-line official.

  • Finally, after a vast amount of argument, the main-line divisions were settled, and attention was given to the side-lines.

    The Modern Railroad Edward Hungerford
  • Banks and the cowboys, waiting breathless, saw Harvey with a determined lurch close the main-line contact.

    The Nerve of Foley Frank H. Spearman
  • Following breakfast, the morning being a beautiful one, Alex determined on a walk, and set off along the main-line to the west.

    The Young Railroaders Francis Lovell Coombs
  • The Natural Bridge is not far from Field, the main-line railway town that serves as a center for this national playground.

    Your National Parks Enos A. Mills
  • The main-line engine she's built for speed as well as power.

  • There is a regular cordon of guides—like me—drawn across the entrances to the main-line platforms—unostentatiously, of course.

    The Man with the Clubfoot Valentine Williams
  • It was now just half-past eight, and the station showed all the animation inseparable from the departure of main-line trains.

    Fantmas Pierre Souvestre
  • You may see the wrecking-train at every big yard, waiting on a siding which has quick access to the main-line tracks.

    The Modern Railroad Edward Hungerford
British Dictionary definitions for main-line

main line

  1. the trunk route between two points, usually fed by branch lines
  2. (as modifier): a main-line station
(US) a main road
(intransitive) (slang) to inject a drug into a vein
having an important position, esp having responsibility for the main areas of activity
Derived Forms
mainliner, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for main-line

main line


"principal line of a railway," 1841; meaning "affluent area of residence" is by 1917, originally (with capitals) that of Philadelphia, from the "main line" of the Pennsylvania Railroad which added local stops to a string of backwater towns west of the city late 19c. that helped turn them into fashionable suburbs.

The Main Line, Philadelphia's most famous suburban district, was deliberately conceived in the 1870's and 1880's by the [Pennsylvania] Railroad, which built high-toned housing developments, ran hotels, more or less forced its executives to plunk their estates out there, and created a whole series of somewhat spurious Welsh towns along the railroad tracks. ... Now everybody assumes these all date from 1682, like the Robertses; but as Chestnut Hill people like to say, "nobody but Welsh peasants lived on the Main Line till the Railroad built it up." [Nathaniel Burt, "The Perennial Philadelphians," 1963]
The original station stops were, in order out from the city, Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Paoli. The train line for commuters along it is the Paoli Local.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for main-line

main line

noun phrase

  1. (also Main Line) The wealthy and fashionable elements of a place; high society and its area of residence, esp that of Philadelphia: so young and handsome and so popular with the Main Line (1930s+)
  2. A vein in the arm, the median vein, into which narcotics may be injected (1920s+ Narcotics)

[first sense fr the railroad between Philadelphia and the wealthy suburbs to the west]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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