- a very powerful individual
- having a lot of power
- an influential person
- being very successful
- He is a big gun at the law firm; he has never lost a single court case.
- The big guns of football are planning to build five new state-of-the-art stadiums.
- If you manage to go past the group stage, you’ll have the opportunity to showcase your talent to the big guns.
- There’s nothing we can do for now until the big guns guide us on the way forward.
- If you surround yourself with the big guns of crypto trading, you’ll surely become successful.
The bigger the gun, the more forceful its effect is. In the nineteenth century, the idiom “big gun” began to be used for people of high prestige or great importance. Charles Dickens used it in an 1867 letter:
“The college mustered in full force, from the biggest guns to the smallest.”
The phrase has a close meaning to other phrases such as a big wheel, big cheese, big shot, and big fish. For instance, big fish has origins in the U.S. and it metaphorically means a powerful individual. For instance, “big fish in a small pond” means a powerful individual within a small group.
Another theory suggests that the idiom originates from the use of artillery in warfare; during the 1800s, large cannons were used by the military and required a lot of people to operate them. Since this was not a job for the average person, these men were considered important and experienced members of their teams.