brass hat

Idioms & Phrases

brass hat

A high-ranking official, as in All the brass bats were invited to the sales conference. The terms big brass, top brass, and the brass all refer to high officials considered as a group. For example, John's one of the top brass in townhe's superintendent of schools. The origin of this term is disputed. Most authorities believe it originated in the late 19th-century British army, when senior officers had gold leaves on their cap brims. Another theory is that it referred to the cocked hat worn by Napoleon and his officers, which they folded and carried under the arm when indoors. In French these were called chapeaux à bras ("hats in arms"), a term the British are supposed to have anglicized as brass. By World War I brass hat referred to a high-ranking officer in Britain and America, and in World War II it was joined by the other brass phrases. After the war these terms began to be used for the top executives in business and other organizations.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
Cite This Source
Explore Dictionary.com
Previous Definition: brass
Next Definition: brass ring
Words Near: brass hat
More from Thesaurus.com
Synonyms and Antonyms for brass hat
More from Reference.com
Search for articles containing brass hat
More from Dictionary.com Translator
Dictionary.com Word FAQs

Dictionary.com presents 366 FAQs, incorporating some of the frequently asked questions from the past with newer queries.

Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature