What Does Big Man on Campus Mean?

Big Man on Campus Meaning

Definition: Someone with a lot of authority, clout, or popularity. This may be real or perceived.

While typically used to talk about student athletes, this phrase can also be used in the business world, or with anyone who seems to have authority over an arena.

The big man on campus might be someone at work, someone in your family, or someone at school, and it is always someone with a big presence and usually some influence.

Origin of Big Man on Campus

The exact origin is unknown, but it seems to have been used since the 1930s in the more literal sense of being a male college leader.

Since the 1990s, it has expanded to mean anyone’s renowned or dominant presence.

Examples of Big Man on Campus

big guy on campusIn the modern day, the phrase is frequently used to describe prominent and respected high-school and college athletes.

  • As the quarterback on a Division I team, he was regarded as big man on campus.

As mentioned in the above section, this phrase can also be used to talk about non-athletes who are well connected on campus. Very colloquially, he (or she) would know the best parties and the best places to hang out.

If someone is acting like a big man on campus, that often means one is behaving like he or she is important when in fact he or she is not.

  • I don’t know why Fred’s walking around, acting the like the big man on campus. He’s getting expelled next week, I heard it in the principal’s office.

bmoc meaningThis phrase is often said in jest when someone is acting more important than he or she really is.

For example, here is conversation between two co-workers about a new, but insignificant, job promotion.

Becky: Do you want to go get lunch?

Sarah: Sorry, I have to go to this meeting with the directors.

Becky: Why are you going to that? You’re not a director.

Sarah: Bill said he is considering me to become the newest director.

Becky: Oh, big man on campus! Can’t go out with the rest of us anymore? I understand. We can get lunch next time.

More Examples

  • It’s not a simple case of wish fulfillment, although Pink is a big-man-on-campus type, the starting quarterback of a successful high school football team, and the kind of guy women fight over. –The Guardian
  • Brian Davis, who was nominated for various awards such as Server of the Community and Big Man on Campus, said he felt appreciative of the nominations. –Daily Collegian


The English idiom big man on campus, sometimes abbreviated BMOC, is someone everyone knows, usually through his or her talent and ability to connect with people.