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1. A character in a literary work.
a. A person.
b. A person of distinction. See Synonyms at celebrity.

[Middle English, person, from Old French, from persone, person; see person.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


1. an important or distinguished person
2. another word for person1: a strange personage.
3. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) rare a figure in literature, history, etc
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ˈpɜr sə nɪdʒ)

1. a person of distinction or importance.
2. any person.
3. a character in a play, story, etc.
[1425–75; late Middle English: body or image (statue, portrait) of a person < Old French. See person, -age]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.



(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.

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.personage - another word for person; a person not meriting identification; "a strange personage appeared at the door"
individual, mortal, person, somebody, someone, soul - a human being; "there was too much for one person to do"
2.personage - a person whose actions and opinions strongly influence the course of eventspersonage - a person whose actions and opinions strongly influence the course of events
adult, grownup - a fully developed person from maturity onward
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"
celebrity, famous person - a widely known person; "he was a baseball celebrity"
titan, behemoth, colossus, giant, heavyweight - a person of exceptional importance and reputation
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
high-muck-a-muck, pooh-bah - an arrogant or conceited person of importance
kingmaker - an important person who can bring leaders to power through the exercise of political influence; "the Earl of Warwick was the first kingmaker"
bigwig, kingpin, top banana - the most important person in a group or undertaking
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"
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


noun personality, celebrity, big name, somebody, worthy, notable, public figure, dignitary, luminary, celeb (informal), big shot (informal), megastar (informal), big noise (informal), well-known person, V.I.P. MPs, film stars and other important personages
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002


1. A person portrayed in fiction or drama:
2. A member of the human race:
4. A famous person:
Informal: big name.
The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


[ˈpɜːsnɪdʒ] Npersonaje m
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ˈpɜːrsənɪdʒ] n
(= person) → personnage m
(in book, play)personnage m
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[ˈpɜːsnɪdʒ] npersonaggio
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995
References in classic literature ?
The Assistant Commissioner walked along a short and narrow street like a wet, muddy trench, then crossing a very broad thoroughfare entered a public edifice, and sought speech with a young private secretary (unpaid) of a great personage.
A man cannot tell whether Apelles, or Albert Durer, were the more trifler; whereof the one, would make a personage by geometrical proportions; the other, by taking the best parts out of divers faces, to make one excellent.
One of these worthies--a tall, lank figure, brandishing a rusty sword of immense longitude--purported to be no less a personage than General George Washington; and the other principal officers of the American army, such as Gates, Lee, Putnam, Schuyler, Ward and Heath, were represented by similar scarecrows.
She was lately, it is said, sitting on her throne--which is not very amusing after all--when she began humming an old tune, and it was just, 'Oh, why should I not be married?' "That song is not without its meaning,' said she, and so then she was determined to marry; but she would have a husband who knew how to give an answer when he was spoken to--not one who looked only as if he were a great personage, for that is so tiresome.
The following personage appears in other stories of the Human Comedy.
But her imitations of a Parisian personage, very highly placed indeed, as she represented him standing in the corner of a room with his face to the wall, rubbing the back of his head and moaning helplessly, "Rita, you are the death of me!" were enough to make one (if young and free from cares) split one's sides laughing.
Another and far more important reason than the delivery of a pair of embroidered gloves, impelled Hester, at this time, to seek an interview with a personage of so much power and activity in the affairs of the settlement.
At that moment, the tapestry of the dressing-room, which we have described above, was raised, and afforded passage to a personage, the mere sight of whom suddenly stopped the crowd, and changed its wrath into curiosity as by enchantment.
At first, a poor youth battling with adversity; then the lover of an actress, whom he followed through the provinces, play-writing for the strolling troupe to which she was attached; the next, secretary to a high personage engaged in a mission to Thibet; then soldier, and finally poet of renown, acquiring with his latter years the fortune and honours denied him in his youth.
The sun's disc, enlarged by the mist, seemed an enormous ring of gold, and Passepartout was amusing himself by calculating its value in pounds sterling, when he was diverted from this interesting study by a strange-looking personage who made his appearance on the platform.
The novelty Anna Pavlovna was setting before her guests that evening was Boris Drubetskoy, who had just arrived as a special messenger from the Prussian army and was aide-de-camp to a very important personage.
An Eastern traveller was somebody in those days, and the adventurous Bedwin, who had published his quarto and passed some months under the tents in the desert, was a personage of no small importance.