Big League and Bush League – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Today, we’re hitting a home run with two popular idioms—bush league and big league. These phrases have a sporting origin but are often used in everyday language to describe the scale or quality of things. And I promise you that it’s not just a ball game!

Bush League vs. Big League

Big League and Bush League Idiom Origin Meaning

Interestingly, bush league and big league are two ends of a spectrum. When something’s big league, it’s high-level, superior or top-tier. But if it’s bush league, it’s inferior, minor or second-rate. Talk about contrast, eh?

Big Leagues Figurative Meaning

Away from the baseball diamond, big league refers to the highest level of any activity or profession. Whether you’re in the world of finance, music or software development, if you’re in the big league, you’re among the best of the best. It’s like being on top of the professional food chain.

Bush League Meaning

On the flip side, we have bush league. And no, it’s not about gardening or landscaping! If something’s bush league, it’s amateurish, unprofessional or of inferior quality. Simply put, it’s the opposite of being in the big league.

Major League Figurative Meaning

Just to add another phrase into the mix, major league is another idiom synonymous with big league. If something’s major league, it’s of the highest standard or caliber, just like the big boys in the big league.

Big League and Bush League Origins and Etymology

Both phrases have their roots in baseball lingo, which is pretty obvious, even if you’re not a fan of sports. The big league is a term used to describe the top baseball leagues (like the Major League teams in baseball in the USA). The bush league was a term for minor or rural leagues, hence the reference to “bush” —rural or country areas. Now we use it as a slang term. 

Synonyms for Bush League

  • Second-rate
  • Inferior
  • Amateurish
  • Mediocre quality 
  • Minor league level 
  • Low-quality
  • Small-time

Synonyms for Big League

  • Top-tier
  • High-level
  • Elite
  • First-class
  • Superior

Bush League Examples in a Sentence

Big League and Bush League Idiom Origin Meaning 1 1
  • The project was so bush league that no one took it seriously.
  • Despite being a bush league actor, he dreamed of hitting it big someday.
  • The party was quite a bush league compared to their usual extravagant events.
  • Their bush league tactics didn’t impress the seasoned professionals.
  • The company started in a bush league but is now a multinational corporation.

Big League Examples in a Sentence

  • After his promotion, he felt like he was playing in the big league.
  • Her design skills are definitely big-league material.
  • Landing that contract took our small startup into the big league.
  • His big-league attitude was sometimes mistaken for arrogance.
  • Despite being in the big league, she always stayed humble.

From Bush League to Big League

And that’s a home run on another awesome grammar guide! We’ve covered everything from the baseball field to the boardroom with bush league and big league. Remember, whether you’re in the minor or major leagues, the writing game is all about passion and persistence.