Also found in: Thesaurus.
per•son•age(ˈpɜr sə nɪdʒ)
(See also STATUS.)
big brass V.I.P.’s; high-ranking officials, either military or civilian. The phrase, which appeared in the Boston Herald in 1899, referred to the gold braid or insignia on the uniforms of high-ranking military officers. The term is now commonly applied to both military and civilian officials, and often appears simply as the brass. A related term for military and naval officials is brass hat.
big shot An important or influential person. Although the exact origin is unknown, this expression is most likely a derivative of the earlier big gun, in use since 1834, and the phrase to carry big guns, since 1867. Still widely used today, this term dates from the 1930s.
big wheel An important or influential person. In use since 1950, this term is thought to have come from the mechanics’ expression to roll a big wheel ‘to be powerful or important.’ Other similar phrases include big bug (since 1827), cheese or big cheese (since 1920), and the equivalent French term grand fromage. All but big bug are still in popular use today.
bigwig A person of importance and prominence, so called from the days when aristocrats and other men of note wore powdered wigs, somewhat more ponderous than those still worn by barristers and judges in England. According to one source, the larger the wig, the more important the person. The term is usually used contemptuously or humorously. It appeared in its present figurative meaning as early as the 18th century:
Though those big-wigs have really nothing in them, they look very formidable. (Robert Southey, Letters, 1792)
chief cook and bottle washer One who manages a menial operation, wearing different hats to accomplish whatever needs to be done; often used in reference to the wife and mother of a family. The origin of chief cook and bottle washer is not known. It may have originated as service jargon, or, as has been speculated, the phrase may be a derivative of chiff chark and bottle washer, found occasionally as a listing in old Salem logs. “Chiff chark” is a name for a variety of Russian wine glass. The expression has been in use since the beginning of the 19th century.
chief itch and rub The most important person; head honcho; big wheel or big deal; the “alpha and omega.” One possible explanation for this phrase relates to the role of a leader as an instigator, one who stirs up interest and sees to it that what needs to be done is accomplished. In this capacity, a leader is considered a source of irritation, an “itch.” Rub could be a synonym for itch (emphasizing the nagging, irritating characteristics of a leader), or it could mean ‘to soothe or relieve an itch.’ This would refer to the role of a leader as a mediator or reconciler. Another very different explanation is that having the problem and solution (itch and rub) contained in one person precludes the need for other people. Such a self-sufficient person would be recognized as leadership material, or in slang terms, “chief itch and rub.”
fat cat A wealthy and influential person, especially one who finances a political campaign or candidate; a bigwig or name in any field. In this expression, cat is used in a mildly derogatory sense; fat implies that the wealthy lead lives of self-indulgence and thus tend toward obesity. In contemporary usage, however, fat cat does not always carry its original connotation of the stereo-typical wealthy politician’s physical appearance.
Hollywood celebrities and literary fat cats … (Bennett Cerf, Saturday Review of Literature, April 16, 1949)
high-muck-a-muck American slang for an important or high-ranking person, especially one who is pompous or conceited. The term is from Chinook Indian jargon hiu muckamuck ‘plenty [of] food.’ Its current figurative use dates from 1856.
his nibs A person of importance, often the boss, chief, or head honcho; a self-important person, a puffed-up egotist; also her nibs. The expression may derive from a little-used slang term of the mid-19th century: nib ‘gentleman.’ It is usually used contemptuously.
I wish I could just lie on a bed and smoke, like His Nibs. (H. Croome, Forgotten Place, 1957)
honcho The leader or boss; the person in charge; also hancho or head honcho. This American slang term was picked up by U.S. Armed Forces stationed in Japan during the occupation, and gained currency during the Korean conflict. It is from the Japanese hanchō (han ‘squad’ + chō ‘chief’) ‘squad or group leader,’ and has been in use since 1947.
kingpin The most critical person in a business or project; leader, chief. In bowling, the kingpin is the foremost, number one pin which, if hit correctly, causes the other nine pins to fall. Correspondingly, the expression is figuratively used in reference to a bigwig whose elimination would bring about the collapse of an enterprise or undertaking.
The owner of three shops was the kingpin behind a wholesale shoplifting plot. (Daily Telegraph, October, 1970)
leading light An important or influential person; a leader. Leading light is a nautical term for a lighthouse or other visible beacon (such as a buoy) that helps guide a sailor or pilot into port. The figurative implications are obvious.
a name to conjure with A person so powerful and influential that the mere mention of his name evokes awe and respect and can work magic. The term’s conceptual origin lies in the notion that only the names of important personages could conjure up the spirits of the dead.
Write them together, yours is as fair a name;
Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well;
Weigh them, it as as heavy; conjure with ‘em,
Brutus will start a spirit as soon as Caesar.
(Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, I, Iii)
The actual wording a name to conjure with dates from the late 19th century; it is still widely used.
His name, little known to the public, is one to conjure with in Hollywood. (Iris Murdoch, Under Net, 1954)
straw boss An assistant boss or supervisor, especially one who gives orders but lacks the status, power, or authority to enforce them; a laborer who acts as leader or foreman of a crew of fellow workers. This expression originated with the custom of a boss’s supervising the loading of grain into a thresher while his assistant, the straw boss, watches the end-products as they leave the machine—a nominal job at best, and one that involves little responsibility. The term is commonly applied in nonagricultural contexts to an immediate supervisor who oversees and often participates in the work, but who is himself answerable to a person in a higher position.
These employees … [having suffered] the continual oppression of the “straw bosses” … were in no condition to be trifled with by the Company. (William Carwardine, The Pullman Strike, 1894)
top banana The best in a particular field; the senior or leading comedian in musical comedy, burlesque, or vaudeville. This American slang term, in use since the 1950s, is said to have come from the soft, water- or air-filled banana-shaped club carried by early comedians. These were used in slapstick routines for hitting other comedians over the head.
top dog The boss, the person in charge; the best, number one.
V.I.P. An important or well-known person; a big shot. This widely used expression is an abbreviation of “Very Important Person.” It was first used during World War II by an army officer who was arranging a secret flight of dignitaries to the Middle East. To avoid disclosing their identities, he listed each of them as “V.I.P.” on his transport orders. This appellation became an almost overnight sensation and though most frequently used to describe an officer, executive, or politician, V.I.P. has, over the years, been applied to virtually anyone in a position of importance.
|Noun||1.||personage - another word for person; a person not meriting identification; "a strange personage appeared at the door"|
|2.||personage - a person whose actions and opinions strongly influence the course of events|
big cheese, big deal, big enchilada, big fish, big gun, big shot, big wheel, head honcho - an important influential person; "he thinks he's a big shot"; "she's a big deal in local politics"; "the Qaeda commander is a very big fish"
elder statesman - any influential person whose advice is highly respected
eminence grise - (French) a person who exercises power or influence in certain areas without holding an official position; "the President's wife is an eminence grise in matters of education"
Excellency - a title used to address dignitaries (such as ambassadors or governors); usually preceded by `Your' or `His' or `Her'; "Your Excellency"
fixer, influence peddler - someone who intervenes with authorities for a person in trouble (usually using underhand or illegal methods for a fee)
heavy hitter - an influential person who works hard to promote the causes they are interested in
hierarch - a person who holds a high position in a hierarchy
kingmaker - an important person who can bring leaders to power through the exercise of political influence; "the Earl of Warwick was the first kingmaker"
magnifico - a person of distinguished rank or appearance
public figure, name, figure - a well-known or notable person; "they studied all the great names in the history of France"; "she is an important figure in modern music"
nepotist - a powerful person who shows favoritism to relatives or close friends
policy maker - someone who sets the plan pursued by a government or business etc.; "policy makers often make the right decision for the wrong reason"
power broker, powerbroker - a person who is important by virtue of the people or votes they control; "a power broker who does you a favor will expect you to return it"
sacred cow - a person unreasonably held to be immune to criticism
sirdar - an important person in India
socialite - a socially prominent person
sun - a person considered as a source of warmth or energy or glory etc
dignitary, high muckamuck, high-up, panjandrum, very important person, VIP - an important or influential (and often overbearing) person
worthy - an important, honorable person (word is often used humorously); "he told his story to some conservative worthies"; "local worthies rarely challenged the chief constable"