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past master

a person who is thoroughly experienced or exceptionally skilled in a profession, art, etc.:
a past master at chess.
a person who has held the office of master in a guild, lodge, etc.
Origin of past master
1755-65 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for past-master
Historical Examples
  • One soldier in particular was past-master in making savoury stews much appreciated by the others.

    A Wayfarer in China Elizabeth Kendall
  • These are laws of sincerity which not even a past-master in the laws of the stage can afford to neglect.

    Another Sheaf John Galsworthy
  • Only Tom Lennard remained impenetrably silent; he knew too much; he was a past-master in the mystery of mysteries.

    A Dream of the North Sea James Runciman
  • I can speak on the matter like a professor, for I was past-master in the science.

    My New Curate P.A. Sheehan
  • She was a past-master in the art of grief, and, pending its extraction, a docile tear hung on her eyelid and waited.

  • It was Louis Laplante, that past-master in the art of diplomatic deception.

    Lords of the North A. C. Laut
  • He was, however, a past-master in the art that he was at present pursuing and set the whole of his mind on his opportunity.

    The Sins of the Children Cosmo Hamilton
  • "You're certainly a past-master at making a mess of things," William continued.

    Otherwise Phyllis Meredith Nicholson
  • He was keen of wit and a past-master in the delicate art of flattery.

    The Man of the Desert Grace Livingston Hill
  • Bourget is, indeed, the past-master of "psychological" fiction.

    Cosmopolis, Complete Paul Bourget
British Dictionary definitions for past-master

past master

a person with talent for, or experience in, a particular activity: a past master of tact
a person who has held the office of master in a Freemasons' lodge, guild, etc
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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Idioms and Phrases with past-master

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® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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