MAJOR (Lat. for " greater "), a word used, both as a substantive and adjective, for that which is greater than another in size, quality, degree, importance, etc., often opposed correlatively to that to which " minor " is applied in the same connotation. In the categorical 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. (For the distinction between major and minor intervals, and other applications in music, see Music and HARMONY.)
The use of Major as part of an official title in Med. Lat. has given the Span, mayor, Fr. maire, and Eng. " mayor " (q.v.). In English the unadapted form "major" is the title of a military officer now ranking between a captain and a lieutenantcolonel. Originally the word was used adjectivally in the title " sergeant-major," an officer of high rank (third in command of an army) who performed the same duties of administration, drill and encampments on the staff of the chief commander as the sergeant in a company performs as assistant to the captain. This was in the latter half of the 16th century, and very soon afterwards the " sergeant-major " became known as the " sergeantmajor-general " hence the modern title of major-general. By the time of the English Civil War " majors " had been introduced in each regiment of foot, who corresponded in a lesser Sphere to the " major-general " of the whole army. The major's Sphere of duties, precedence and title have since varied but little, though he has, in the British service, taken the place of the lieutenant-colonel as second in command the latter officer exercising the command of the cavalry regiment, infantry battalion or artillery brigade, and the colonel being, save for certain administrative functions, little more than the titular chief of his regiment. Junior majors command companies of infantry; squadrons of cavalry and batteries of artillery are also commanded by majors. In most European armies, however, and of late years in the army of the United States also, the major has become a battalion commander under the orders of a regimental commander (colonel or lieutenant-colonel) . The word appears also in the British service in " brigade-major " (the adjutant or staff officer of a brigade). "Town-majors" (garrison staff officers) are now no longer appointed. In the French service up to 1871 the " major-general " was the chief of the general staff of a field army, and thus preserved the tradition of the former " sergeant-major " or " sergeant- majorgeneral."
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)