c.1300, northern England dialect, "powerful, strong," of unknown origin, possibly from a Scandinavian source (cf. Norwegian dial. bugge "great man"). O.E. used micel in many of the same senses. Meaning "of great size" is late 14c.; that of "grown up" is attested from 1550s. Sense of "important" is from 1570s. Big band as a musical style is from 1926. Slang big head "conceit" is first recorded 1850. Big business is 1905; big house "penitentiary" is U.S. underworld slang first attested 1915 (in London, "a workhouse," 1851). In financial journalism, big ticket items so called from 1956. Big lie is from Hitler's grosse lüge.