Big shot is an idiom that has been in use for nearly a hundred years.
An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner and English speaker. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as blow off steam, once in a blue moon, let the cat out of the bag, spill the beans, face the music, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, drop in the bucket, hit the nail on the head, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the definition of the term big shot, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.
A big shot is an important person, someone who is of major consequence in a certain sphere of influence. The term big shot is one of many such idioms that mean the most important person or the leader, including the idioms big fish, big wheel, and big kahuna. In the mid-1800s, big shot came into use to mean artillery that shoots large projectiles, such as cannons. Big shot is an American idiomatic expression, first seen in its figurative sense in the 1920s as gang slang to mean the boss or the leader. Today, big shot is often used in a sarcastic, taunting fashion to ridicule someone who thinks he is more important than he actually is. The plural form of big shot is big shots.
That is, unless you’re a big-shot dude in the tech world, in which case you get to call it “biohacking.” (The National Post)
“There was a big shot coming to visit us so we decided to stay in our overalls which was jet black.” (Gulf News India)
Scott (Michael Ealy), a big-shot marketing strategist, isn’t so sure, but an isolated house at the end of a spooky, tree-lined driveway seems like the perfect place to start a family. (The New York Times)
Even when he’s a buffoon of a wannabe gangster boss, a small fry who thinks he’s a big shot, a school bully – literally, because he’s still a student – and a woeful would-be womaniser. (The South China Morning Post)