Big Frog in a Small Pond Meaning
Definition: Someone who is important or influential but only so in a small, isolated area without much competition.
A big frog in a small pond usually refers to someone who has better ideas, training, or skills than all of those around him. The reason why this “big frog” has the best skills in the area is that the “pond” is not very big. Perhaps this person lives in a small community where it is easy to stand out for being an overachiever.
Some people may choose to be a big frog in a small pond. For example, someone may take a job that he enjoys but finds that he is overqualified for because of an advanced degree. Because he is the most educated person at his work, he is a big frog in a small pond.
Other times, a “big frog” is not able to fully use his ideas, training, or skills because he is in a “small pond.” The “small pond” could be any number of factors limiting someone’s success in this case. It could refer to a workforce of just a few people or people who are not smart in general.
Origin of Big Frog in a Small Pond
This phrase and related phrases have been in use since the 1800s. Originally the phrase big toad in the puddle was used in the late 1800s. This phrase evolved over time into the phrases big frog in a small pond and big fish in a small pond, which carries the same meaning.
For hundreds of years, calling someone a big frog has meant that person is influential or important.
Examples of Big Frog in a Small Pond
This phrase could be used in a positive or a negative way.
In a positive use, big frog in a small pond can describe someone who is talented and should be given more opportunities to use his talent. For example, a girl from a farm town who is very good at science but does not have any opportunity to take advanced science classes at her rural high school is a big frog in a small pond. She needs to leave her “small pond” to get the additional science training she needs.
In a negative use, it can describe somebody who wants to feel important without putting in much work. Someone who takes on leadership roles in clubs that do not actually do much may be a big fish in a small pond because she is a leader, but she is not doing much with her position as leader.
- As Kermit the Frog visits his spawning place, viewers are taken back to his early years, when he begins to question being a big frog in a small pond and starts looking for life beyond the lily pads. –New York Times
- Extracurricular activities, most of which are held at lunchtime, are a major focus at the school. Brent said: “Every student can be a big frog in a small pond. In a normal school, you’re competing for all these spots. You’re not, here.” –LA Times
A big fish in a small pond is a person who is more important or skilled than others around them.