Etymology: Middle English, from Old English mæsse, modification of Vulgar Latin *messa, literally, dismissal at the end of a religious service, from Late Latin missa, from Latin, feminine of missus, past participle of mittere to send
Date: before 12th century
1. capitalized the liturgy of the Eucharist especially in accordance with the traditional Latin rite
2. often capitalized a celebration of the Eucharist <Sunday masses held at three different hours> 3. a musical setting for the ordinary of the Mass II. noun Etymology: Middle English masse, from Anglo-French, from Latin massa, from Greek maza; akin to Greek massein to knead — more at mingle Date: 15th century 1. a. a quantity or aggregate of matter usually of considerable size b. (1) expanse, bulk (2) massive quality or effect <impressed me with such mass and such vividness — F. M. Ford> (3) the principal part or main body <the great mass of the continent is buried under an ice cap — Walter Sullivan> (4) aggregate, whole <men in the mass> c. the property of a body that is a measure of its inertia and that is commonly taken as a measure of the amount of material it contains and causes it to have weight in a gravitational field 2. a large quantity, amount, or number <a great mass of material> 3. a. a large body of persons in a compact group ; a body of persons regarded as an aggregate b. the great body of the people as contrasted with the elite — often used in plural <the underprivileged and disadvantaged masses — C. A. Buss> Synonyms: see bulk III. verb Date: 14th century transitive verb to form or collect into a mass intransitive verb to assemble in a mass <three thousand students had massed in the plaza — A. E. Neville> IV. adjective Date: 1733 1. a. of or relating to the mass of the people <mass market> <mass education>; also being one of or at one with the mass ; average, commonplace <mass man> b. participated in by or affecting a large number of individuals <mass destruction> <mass demonstrations> c. having a large-scale character <mass plantings of tulips> 2. viewed as a whole ; total <the mass effect of a design>
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.