top banana

top banana

noun Slang.
a leading comedian in musical comedy, burlesque, vaudeville, etc.: For many years he was top banana on the circuit.
the chief person in a group or undertaking.

1950–55 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
top banana
1.  the leading comedian in vaudeville, burlesque, etc
2.  the leader; boss

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Slang Dictionary

top banana definition

  1. n.
    the lead comedian in a burlesque or vaudeville act. : The top banana didn't show up for the gig.
  2. n.
    the boss; the leader or head of something. (See also big cheese; big enchilada.) : You'll have to ask the top banana. He's out right now.
Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Richard A. Spears.Fourth Edition.
Copyright 2007. Published by McGraw-Hill Education.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

top banana

Also, top dog. The principal person in a group, organization, or undertaking, as in His plan was to be top banana within ten years, or Now that she's top dog you can't get hold of her at all. The first term comes from show business, where from the early 1900s it has signified the leading comedian (possibly the original allusion was to Frank Lebowitz, a burlesque comedian who used bananas in his act). It also gave rise to second banana, for a supporting actor, usually a straight man. Both were transferred to more general use in the second half of the 1900s, as in executive Peter Barton's statement, "There is a certain pain to being a second banana, but you have to have an ability to sublimate your ego," quoted in The New York Times, May 15, 1996. The variant, top dog, originated in sports in the late 1800s and signified the odds-on favorite or winner in a contest; it alludes to the dog who wins (comes out on top) in a dogfight.

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