The big picture

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The big picture is an idiom with an uncertain origin. We will examine the meaning of the common saying the big picture, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

The big picture is an idiom that means the overall view of a situation or the entire perspective of a situation. The idea is that one should not concentrate on just a small detail, but should consider all aspects of a situation. The exact origin of the idiom the big picture is unknown. Most believe that the term came into use in the early 1900s and is related to film-making. However, in The Lounger at the Exhibition, published in Chamber’s Journal in 1862, we find: “…it was but a panel from the big picture of life, such a one as you yourself might have traced out during those months spent at the sea-side – a very quiet panel…” In this instance, the big picture refers not to a film, but to a metaphorical painting.


Set your radar to be alert to the big picture: what is going on in local/global economic and related environments? (Royal Gazette)

In this way, users have a simplified interface where everything is connected, enabling them to see the ‘big picture’ rather than working to gather and analyse separate data streams in isolation. (The Journal of Transportation)

“We looked at the big picture, the ridership at every level,” Mwilambwe said. (Daily Illini)