What does the idiom "big cheese" mean?

big cheese is an idiom used by many writers. When idioms are used in the right place, they open the doors of effective communication and increase your descriptive power. In this way, you will be better understood. The meaning of the expression big cheese is also remarkable in this respect.

Meaning of "big cheese"


The phrase 'big cheese' is used to describe a person in a position of power or influence, someone who is important and influential in a certain sphere of life. It is often used to refer to someone in politics, business, or cultural influence, as well as someone who is well respected within their field. The phrase also carries a connotation of privilege, as it implies a person's stature is based on their wealth and standing in society.


The phrase 'big cheese' dates back to the late 19th century, when it was first popularized in the United States. The origin of the phrase is uncertain, but there are several theories regarding its etymology. The most prevalent theory is that the phrase derives from the Hindi word 'chiz,' meaning 'thing.' This theory suggests that when Hindi immigrants traveled to the United States, they used 'chiz' to refer to important people, as they would have been seen as 'big things' or 'big cheeses' in their new country. The phrase may also derive from the Yiddish term 'cheder cheese,' which refers to a small wheel of cheese which was used to pay school fees.


The phrase 'big cheese' is most commonly used in informal conversation or colloquial English, often with humorous intent. It is almost always used to describe a person in a positive light, implying that they are powerful, influential and important. In some contexts, it is also used to describe someone in a condescending way, suggesting that their power or influence is not genuine. It can also be used to refer to someone in a humorous way when they are not actually of high standing.

Example Sentences

  • My boss is the big cheese around the office; everyone knows him.
  • The new mayor is really the big cheese in town; no one makes a decision without consulting him.
  • He may think he's the big cheese, but I'm not impressed with his arrogance.

The meanings of the words in the "big cheese" idiom

The universal role of idioms

"Kill two birds with one stone" is an English idiom that means to accomplish two things with a single action. In French, the similar idiom is "Faire d'une pierre deux coups," which translates to "To kill two birds with one stone." This idiom highlights the efficiency of completing two tasks with one action.


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