Top dog

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Top dog is a term with murky origins. We will examine the definition of top dog, where this term came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Top dog refers to someone who is at the top of the pecking order, someone who is dominant or at the apex of his field. The term top dog used as an idiom seems to only date back to 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 meaning. Other terms such as over dog and upper dog were also in use, but they have fallen by the wayside. The term top dog seems to have evolved from the literal meaning of the phrase, describing the dog who is dominant in a pack or victorious in a dogfight. The plural form is top dogs.


The cosmetics company’s chief executive is the latest corporate top dog to fall victim to the displeasure of activist investors. (Barron’s)

Dallas city leaders are on the hunt for a top dog to lead the long-beleaguered Dallas Animal Services department. (The Dallas Morning News)

Triangular leadership: Dr Mahathir shares the top tier in Pakatan with Anwar and Dr Wan Azizah but he has declared himself the ‘top dog’. (The Star)

Almost as soon as Kelly began his tenure as Trump’s adjutant, he booted Trump crony Anthony Scaramucci out of the White House and established himself as the top dog in the office. (The Week Magazine)

During its seven-year run as the top dog in Lincoln’s lineup, the MKS didn’t garner any accolades from the IIHS but it did earn five-star overall crash test ratings from the government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (The New York Daily News)

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