What Does Act High-and-Mighty Mean?

Act High-and-Mighty Meaning

Definition: To act self-important, often with the connotation of not having earned the status.

If someone is acting high and mighty, one has the opinion that one is better than others, and one is acting in an arrogant way. It is often said as a criticism of someone’s behavior.

For example,

  • I don’t know why William is acting all high-and-mighty. He’s no better than the rest of us.

Origin of Act High-and-Mighty

 Meaning of acting high and mightyThe meaning of the phrase high-and-mighty comes from the time when wealthy or influential people rode horses and were therefore up higher than poorer people who couldn’t afford a horse to ride and had to walk.

The powerful enjoyed being seen that way and were happy to have people see them riding.

The earliest usage dates to the 1400s, and we can read in a letter from Robert Waterton to King Henry V in 1420,

Ryght excellent hegh and ryght myghty Prynce and most dredde sovereyne Lorde. (Right excellent high and right mighty Prince and most dreaded sovereign Lord.)

Nowadays, we would never address someone in that way, and calling some high-and-mighty is an ironic insult.

Example of Act High-and-Mighty

Define act high and mightySaying that someone acts high-and-mighty is usually a way to describe the arrogant behavior of someone you don’t like.

For example,

I don’t want to be part of that club. They walk around acting all high-and-mighty, and it disgusts me.

Sometimes, it refers to a change in behavior, as in,

Mary has started acting all high-and-mighty since she got her promotion. She’s hard to relate to now.

More Examples

  • The greatest gift of all time was announced by an angel, sent from God to lowly shepards, not the high-and-mighty. Seeing and hearing that angel had to be the most amazing thing these humble men had ever seen or heard. –The Cass County Democrat Missourian
  • The part that bothered me the most is feeling that he’s so high-and-mighty and powerful that he can do whatever he wants. –The San Diego Union-Tribune

Summary

To act high-and-mighty is to act arrogant and self-righteous, often giving a bad impression to others.