rule the roost


rule the roost (verb phrase)
/ruːl ðə ruːst/


  • to be in charge or control of a group or activity.
  • to dominate or be the most powerful person in a particular context.

Example Sentences

  1. After the merger, it became clear that the new CEO would rule the roost in the restructured company.
  2. In the small family business, it was Grandma who ruled the roost, making all the important decisions.
  3. Despite being the youngest in the band, Jake quickly proved he could rule the roost with his strong leadership skills.
  4. At the neighborhood meetings, Mr. Thompson’s loud voice and strong opinions often meant he ruled the roost.
  5. With her expertise and experience, Dr. Lee ruled the roost in the research department, guiding every major project.

Origin and History

The phrase “rule the roost” has a rich and somewhat debated history, reflecting both its evolution in language and the changing contexts in which it has been used.

Early Origins

The earliest form of the idiom appears to be “rule the roast,” which dates back to at least the early 16th century. This version referred to being in charge or having authority, particularly in the kitchen, where roast meat was a significant part of meals. For instance, in John Earle’s “Micro-cosmographie” (1628), cooks are described as ruling the roast, emphasizing their dominance in the kitchen setting.


By the 18th century, the phrase had shifted to “rule the roost.” This change coincided with the cultural familiarity of roosters (or cockerels) asserting dominance in a henhouse. The imagery of a rooster overseeing and controlling the hens in a roost provided a vivid metaphor for someone who holds power or authority within a group. This shift made the idiom more relatable to everyday people, who were more likely to encounter a dominant rooster than a master cook.

Folk Etymology

The transition from “rule the roast” to “rule the roost” also reflects a form of folk etymology where a more familiar or logical term replaces an older one. The concept of a rooster ruling the henhouse resonated more broadly, and thus “rule the roost” became the prevalent form. This phrase eventually eclipsed the older “rule the roast,” which fell out of common usage by the 20th century.

Cultural Context

The current usage of “rule the roost” extends beyond the literal farmyard context, retaining its core meaning of being in charge or dominant. Various settings, from family dynamics to workplace hierarchies, use it metaphorically to describe anyone who holds authority.

The evolution of the phrase “rule the roost” from its earlier form, “rule the roast,” demonstrates how language adapts to cultural shifts and common experiences. The change reflects a move from a specific context (kitchen dominance) to a more universally understood scenario (rooster dominance), making the idiom more accessible and enduring in everyday language.

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