top dog


top dog


  • The term “top dog” means a person, group, or thing in a position of power, particularly after struggling or winning a grueling competition.
  • People tend to use “top dog” in a couple of ways. First, they use it to mean the leader of a group. Second, they use it to mean someone dominant in a particular context, which can be anything from a field to a competition.

Examples in Sentences

  1. Given the latest shakeups, she is hoping that her experience will make her the top dog in the accounting department.
  2. Their veteran, all-star roster makes them the top dogs for this football season.
  3. One shouldn’t be surprised that Megalodon was the top dog of the Earth’s oceans.
  4. Say hello to the new top dog in our school.
  5. What specifically is wrong with the United States being top dog in the IT hardware market? Asia is still where the best semiconductors are produced.


It seems to date back to the 1800s, though it might’ve been used before that century without being mentioned in written records. There are a couple of popular explanations for why people started using “top dog” as a phrase. Chances are good that the first one that comes to mind for most people would be the idea of dogs existing within a dominance hierarchy.

However, it is often proposed that “top dog” comes from sawing. Specifically, people can put timber over a saw pit. Subsequently, two individuals can use a long, two-handled saw to produce planks from timber. The more senior individual would stand on top of the timber, while the less senior individual would stand at the bottom of the pit. Unsurprisingly, the latter had the more unpleasant position, not least because said individual would be sprayed with sawdust. Since the irons holding the timber in place were called dogs, these positions are one proposed origin for the phrases “top dog” and “underdog.”

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