Too big for one’s britches or breeches and too big for one’s boots are idioms that came into use in the 1800s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. We will examine the definition of the phrases too big for one’s britches or breeches and too big for one’s boots, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.
To be too big for one’s britches or too big for one’s breeches means to be conceited, to have a big head, to be over-confident or full of one’s self. Originally, the term was rendered as too big for one’s breeches, but has in time taken on the more colloquial term, britches. The phrase has been around at least since the 1830s, and is probably much older. The first known use is in Davy Crockett’s work published in 1835: An Account of Col. Crockett’s Tour to the North and Down East.
To be too big for one’s boots also means to be conceited or over-confident. This phrase first appeared in the 1860s in both England and America, though today it is mostly seen in the United Kingdom. Note that in all of these phrases that the word one’s is rendered with an apostrophe, as it is a possessive noun.
For a brief period, Iovine got too big for his breeches, declaring himself a producer, getting himself hired to serve in that capacity for the British rock band Foghat and then literally falling asleep in the control room, which led to his firing. (The Hollywood Reporter)
“I think he’ll be happy for me, but I don’t think he’ll let me get too big for my britches.” (Ottumwa Courier)
“Even if someone was getting too big for their boots or a little bit ahead of themselves then those guys there – and even the players – would knock them down a peg as well.” (The South London Press & Mercury)