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big cheese

noun, Older Slang.
1.
an influential or important person:
Who's the big cheese around here?
Origin of big cheese
1885-1890
1885-90; see cheese3
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for big cheese
Historical Examples
  • The Montague girl, the last to escape, was seen to announce, "The big cheese is loose—it's eating all the little ones!"

    Merton of the Movies Harry Leon Wilson
  • Going in, I knocked a big cheese off the counter and stooped to pick it up.

    Jiglets Walter Jones
  • It looks for all the world like a big cheese box, with a round chimney or turret on it.

    The Blue and The Gray A. R. White
  • They kidnaped the hero-symbol, the big cheese, and later killed him.

    Border, Breed Nor Birth Dallas McCord Reynolds
  • They had loaves of brown bread, a big cheese, and a bunch of onions.

    Nelly's Silver Mine Helen Hunt Jackson
  • A second later he appeared wearing a wig and goatee like Uncle Sam's and carrying a big cheese on a gold plate.

    Bobbie Bubbles E. Hugh Sherwood and Maud Gridley Budlong
British Dictionary definitions for big cheese

big cheese

noun
1.
(slang) an important person
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Contemporary definitions for big cheese
noun

a very important or influential person, esp. the head of an organization; also called big wheel

Usage Note

slang

Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon
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Slang definitions & phrases for big cheese

big cheese

modifier

: without the big-cheese attitude

noun phrase

  1. big bug, big shot (1900s+)
  2. A stupid or rude man; lout (1920s+)

Related Terms

the cheese

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with big cheese

big cheese

Also, big shot or gun or wheel or enchilada. An important, powerful person; the boss. For example, She loved being the big cheese of her company; the big guns in Congress are bound to change the President's bill; you'd better not act like a big shot among your old friends; Harry was the big wheel in his class; and You'll have to get permission from the big enchilada. The first term dates from the late 1800s and its origin is disputed. Some think it comes from the Urdu word chiz or cheez for “thing,” but others hold it plays on the English word “chief.” Big gun is much older, dating from the early 1800s; big shot became very popular in the late 1920s, particularly when used for underworld leaders of gangsters; big wheel dates from about the same period. Big enchilada, often put as the big enchilada, is the newest, dating from the early 1970s.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Difficulty index for big cheese

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6
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