1. the principal or dominant course, tendency, or trend: the mainstream of American culture.
  2. a river having tributaries.
  3. regular school classes or regular schools: keeping autistic students in the mainstream.


  1. belonging to or characteristic of a principal, dominant, or widely accepted group, movement, style, etc.: mainstream Republicans; a mainstream artist; mainstream media.
  2. of, relating to, or characteristic of jazz falling historically between Dixieland and modern jazz; specifically, swing music.Compare traditional(def 4).

verb (used with object)

  1. to send into the mainstream; cause to join the main force, group, etc.: to mainstream young people into the labor force.
  2. to place (students with disabilities) in regular school classes.

verb (used without object)

  1. to join or be placed in the mainstream.


    1. the main current (of a river, cultural trend, etc)in the mainstream of modern literature
    2. (as modifier)mainstream politics


  1. of or relating to the style of jazz that lies between the traditional and the modern

n.also main-stream, main stream, “principal current of a river,” 1660s, from main (adj.) + stream (n.); hence, “prevailing direction in opinion, popular taste, etc.,” a figurative use first attested in Carlyle (1831). Mainstream media attested by 1980 in language of U.S. leftists critical of coverage of national affairs. The prevailing current or direction of a movement or influence: “The candidate’s speech represented the mainstream thinking on economic policy.”

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