What Does “Big Cheese” Mean?

Discover the meaning of the idiom 'Big Cheese' and how it describes an important person in a company or organization with a lot of influence and authority.

Definition of Big Cheese

Big Cheese is an idiom used to describe an important person in a company or an organization with a lot of influence.

This phrase is reserved for the top executives in an organization.

The big cheese describes any person in a position of importance.

Most often, it is used to describe a boss at work.

Not just any boss could be the big cheese—a middle manager would not have enough leadership clout.

Slang Origins

The phrase “Big Cheese” originated in the United States in the late 19th century as a slang term.

It was used to describe someone who was important or influential in a particular group or organization.

The phrase was likely inspired by the idea of cheese being a valuable commodity, and therefore, someone who was the “big cheese” was someone who held a high position of authority.

Usage in Modern Language

Today, the phrase “big cheese” is still commonly used in the English language to describe someone who is an important person in a particular organization or group.

It is often used in a casual or informal setting, and can be used in both professional and personal contexts.

For example, one might say “The CEO of the company is the big cheese around here” or “The big cheese at the party was the host, who had invited all the guests.”


  • The big cheese of the company was very impressed with her presentation.
  • He acted like the big cheese and ordered everyone around.
  • The big cheese of the school district was in attendance at the meeting.

Are “Big Cheese” and “Bigger Fish to Fry” Similar Idioms in Meaning?

Yes, the idioms “Big Cheese” and “Bigger Fish to Fry” have different meanings despite both relating to importance or prominence in a particular situation. “Big Cheese” refers to someone of importance or influence, while “Bigger Fish to Fry” emphasizes having more important or urgent matters to attend to. Understanding “bigger fish to fry” meaning clarifies this distinction.


  • Top dog
  • Head honcho
  • Bigwig

Overall, the phrase “big cheese” is a casual way to refer to someone who holds a high position of authority in an organization or group.

It is a popular idiom that has been used for over a century to describe important people in a variety of settings.