What Does Big Shot Mean?

Big Shot Meaning

Definition: An important person.

This phrase describes a person who has influence over others or is very important. It can be used seriously to describe someone who has made great achievements, or it can be used sarcastically to attack someone who is acting above themselves.

While this phrase can be used to describe organizations or businesses, it is most often used for individual people. A similar phrase is big man on campus.

Origin of Big Shot

you had to be a big shot This phrase originated in the early-1900s. It is a part of a collection of phrases that use the word big to mean important. Big fish, big wheel, and big cheese all have similar meanings.

The most likely origin of this phrase is from American gangsters. Gangsters were more likely to have guns, to shoot them, and to be shot by them because of their illegal activities. Using the reference to guns, people began to call gang leaders “big shots.”

Back then, if a gang boss was good at shooting other people, he may be a “big shot.” Now, and leader or important person can be called a big shot.

Examples of Big Shot

define big shot Sally felt like a big shot when she kicked the soccer ball into the goal for her team’s winning point. She felt like the most important person on the team!

Pete’s friends started calling him “the big shot” when he came up with an idea for a company. At first they were joking around, but now that he has sold the company for a large sum, they really do treat him like a big shot!

Sometimes this phrase is used sarcastically. “Oh, you think you’re a big shot?” might be asked of someone who is acting more important than they really are.

More Examples

  • Some of the women liked his pitch, heartened that such a big shot was interested in their businesses. –LA Times
  • Big shot mayors can’t allow just anybody to be an email pal. –Chicago Sun-Times


A big shot is a leader or important person.