past master

past master

noun
1.
a person who is thoroughly experienced or exceptionally skilled in a profession, art, etc.: a past master at chess.
2.
a person who has held the office of master in a guild, lodge, etc.

Origin:
1755–65

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
past master
 
n
1.  a person with talent for, or experience in, a particular activity: a past master of tact
2.  a person who has held the office of master in a Freemasons' lodge, guild, etc

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

past master

A person who is thoroughly experienced or exceptionally skilled in some activity or craft. For example, We're lucky to get Ella, because she's a past master at fundraising. This expression probably alludes to the original literal meaning, that is, one who formerly held the post of master in a lodge or other organization. Although past mistress was used for an exceptionally skilled woman in the mid-1800s, it is heard less often today, master serving for both sexes. [Mid-1800s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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