Big Cheese: What this Idiomatic Phrase Means and Where It Came From

What is the meaning of ‘Big Cheese’? When you hear this phrase, you might initially think of the dairy food but that it not what this term is talking about. Now we are going to have a look at what this phrase means and where it came from, along with how to use it in conversation.

Big Cheese

Big Cheese Meaning

The meaning of the idiom ‘big cheese’ is referring to the most powerful person in any given situation. For example, it might refer to the CEO of a company or the President of a country.

Origin of this idiomatic phrase

This saying was originally used around the year 1890 in the United States but it actually comes from the British word, Cheese which meant something that is the best. However, this term could then have come from the Persian word for thing, which is Ciz (pronounced chiz) and put together with the word big, meant a big thing.

“Big Cheese” Examples

You would often hear this phrase being used in a professional situation or in the workplace when talking about the manager or the boss of the company you are working for. You might also use it when talking about a leader of a country or organization. You might hear it used loosely in a religious context, for example, ‘Jesus Christ is the big cheese when it comes to Christianity.’

Example Sentences

  • Evidently he was considered a big cheese here, and was greeted by everyone.
  • This man is now a big cheese in this industry.
  • He thinks he’s the big cheese, but in fact he’s only one of the maggots!
  • He is a big cheese in the Art Fraud Squad.
  • Who’s the big cheese in the small town?

Conversation Examples

Here are some examples of conversations in which you might hear or use the phrase ‘big cheese.’

Conversation 1:

  • Person 1: “Oh look out, here comes George. You don’t want to upset him.
  • Person 2: “What’s so special about him?”
  • Person 1: “Don’t you know? He is the big cheese around here.”

Conversation 2:

  • Person 1: “I am so nervous.”
  • Person 2: “What do you have to be nervous about?”
  • Person 1: “I’ve got a meeting with the big cheese today and it has to go well.”

Other Ways to Say the Phrase

There are other words you might use to refer to someone as the big cheese. Some of these examples could be as follows.

  • Big shot
  • Head honcho
  • Chief
  • Top banana
  • Big fish
  • Boss
  • Leader
  • Director
  • Principal

What Does “Big Cheese” Mean? | Image

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