past master

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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