- high-quality performance or display; additionally, the performer
- one who possesses a high degree of skill, ability, or style.
- high-quality performance or action.
- an exemplary method of doing any given task.
- (Sarcasm) Insisting that a person is overzealously performing an action.
- LeBron James has truly been a class act in basketball long before he entered the NBA.
- Teresa received a well-deserved promotion after exhibiting class act knowledge of the industry.
- The film drama show hailed as a class act failed to become a great hit.
- (Sarcasm) “The new guy is a real class act. We’ll see how long he can keep it up.”
Understanding the root of the idiom “class act” begins with understanding the evolution of the word “class”. In the 17th century, the term “class” was used to define status within a divided society. This use of the word is still common today, accompanied by the terms “higher, ” “middle,” “lower, ” and “working.”
It wasn’t until 1874 that the definition gained new usage in print. John C. Hotten’s Dictionary of Modern Slang, Can’t, and Vulgar Words defined “class” as “The highest quality or combination of highest qualities among athletes.”
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th edition), defines “class” informally as “Elegance of style, taste, and manner.”
One internet source suggests that the idiom, in its entirety, dates back to 1976. However, no one cites the exact origin.