What Does Bigwig Mean?

Bigwig Meaning

Definition: A very important person with high authority.

Origin of Bigwig

This expression originated in the 1700s, and it is indeed literal. In the 17th and 18th centuries, many European noblemen wore big wigs to showcase their wealth or significance in society.

In those days, wigs were very expensive to acquire and keep in good condition.

The trend appears to have started in France, when Louis XIII (1601-1643) went prematurely bald. He then took to wearing big wigs, which became a staple for noblemen by the middle of the century.

Examples of Bigwig

define bigwig In this conversation, a mother and daughter are discussing the daughter’s new job.

Daughter: So, my first day of work didn’t go very well.

Mother: Why not? What happened?

Daughter: Well, before I even officially started, I got on the elevator with another young woman. I figured she was another employee, so I tried to be friendly with her by making some small talk.

Mother: And? What went wrong?

Daughter: I said something about how it was my first day, and I was excited to start, but I was nervous because I heard that the CEO, Molly Marthers, was a real shark. I heard she was good at her job but a terrifying person.

Mother: And the person on the elevator was Molly Marthers, wasn’t she?

Daughter: Yes! But how was I supposed to know? She just looked like a normal young woman, not some bigwig.

definition of bigwig In this example, two coworkers are discussing asking for a raise.

Dave: I finally decided to do it. I asked my boss for a raise.

Ben: That’s great! What did he say?

Dave: He said that he’d like to give me a raise, but that he’s not in charge of that decision anymore. If I really want it, I’ll have to talk to the bigwigs who are his bosses.

Ben: Really? Wow. That’s a little intimidating. Are you going to do it?

Dave: Yes, but I just need a little more time to prepare.

More Examples

This excerpt is from a movie review. One of the characters has a father with an important and powerful position working with hedge funds.

  • Serena’s boyfriend, Massimiliano (Guglielmo Pinelli) is the son of hedge-fund bigwig Giovanni Bernaschi (Fabrizio Gifuni); –Chicago Tribune

This excerpt is about an important person who works for Facebook.

  • Facebook bigwig Sheryl Sandberg implored the thousands gathered Thursday in Houston to “stay in tech,” bemoaning the fact that more women don’t pursue technology careers and offering guidance to help women vault into leadership roles. –Houston Chronicle

Summary

A bigwig is a person in a position of power, usually in a very successful company, or within the government.

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