Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bigwig n.

[SE big + wig, note cite 1826: the large-wigged Lord Chancellor]

a powerful, important person, often a politician or bureaucrat; thus as v., to act in a superior manner.

G.A. Stevens Songs Comic & Satyrical 229: Ye big Wigs of Gresham some Nostrum compound / To keep our Heads clear and preserve our Hearts sound.
G. Selwyn letter in 15th Rep. Royal Comm. Hist. Manuscripts (1897) app. vi 526: A new character is coming on stage, and a new point of discussion for the lawyers, for our big wigs, for their Lordships.
[UK]C. Dibdin ‘Meum & Tuum’ Collection of Songs II 166: Why you stupid old big wig.
[UK]‘T.B. Junr.’ Pettyfogger Dramatized I i: Old Big-wig frightened the poor devil a little t’other day.
[UK]W.T. Moncrieff All at Coventry II i: Not a dry eye to be seen! – all the bigwigs dissolved in tears!
[UK] ‘L.A.W—LAW!’ London Songster 11: The Big Wigs to settle the strife, / Plunge you and the husband in Law.
[UK]Pierce Egan’s Life in London 23 July 621/2: [M]ore happy, independent, and contented, than the great Big Wig upon the Woolsack.
[UK]Vidocq Memoirs (trans. W. McGinn) II 159: To bring a man before the big wigs, we must have proofs.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker I 270: I’ll put the big wigs thro’ their facins.
[UK]Dickens Oliver Twist (1966) 391: All the big-wigs trying to look solemn, and Jack Dawkins addressing of ’em as intimate and comfortable as if he was the judge’s own son making a speech arter dinner.
[UK]Thackeray Paris Sketch Book I 166: Let the big-wigs despise us.
[Aus]‘A Week in Oxford’ in Bell’s Life in Sydney 1 Nov. 4/3: Besides, until this night no one, for many years; had dared to disobey the exile-enforced mandate: this made defying and eluding the ‘bigwigs’ still more delighted.
[Aus]G.C. Mundy Our Antipodes 17: A big-wig on the Bench, or [...] a big-wig in the Colonial Office.
[Ind]Delhi Sketch Bk 1 Mar. 33/2: I’ve mentioned my claim, / And the Bigwig replies, He’s recorded my name !
[UK]H. Kingsley Recollections of G. Hamlyn (1891) 441: So you are going to sit among the big-wigs in the House of Lords. I hope you won’t forget yourself.
[UK]Mansfield School-Life at Winchester College (1870) 179: The big wigs sat at the high table.
[UK]‘Fair Play for Tichborne & Kenealy’ in Henderson Victorian Street Ballads (1937) 44: Now when the big-wigs found that he / To them would not be suing.
[Ind]‘Aliph Cheem’ Lays of Ind (1905) 25: [T]he big-wigs apparently scenting some talent.
[UK]Trollope Duke’s Children (1954) 203: ‘The Right Honourable Gentleman no doubt means,’ said Phineas, ‘that we must carry ourselves with some increased external dignity. The world is bigwigging itself, and we must buy a bigger wig than any we have got, in order to confront the world with proper self-respect.’.
[UK] ‘’Arry at a Political Pic-Nic’ Punch 11 Oct. 180/1: If it pleases the Big-wigs to spout, wy it don’t cost hus nothink to cheer.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Oct. 14/4: A blatant civic bigwig, with a crooked sounding name, / Breathes black insinuations ‘gainst the sleeping genius’ fame,.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 8: Big Wig or Great Gun, one in authority.
[UK]M. Williams Round London 121: Lord Salisbury and the big-wigs of the Conservative party are bound to be civil.
[UK]D. Cotsford Society Snapshots 180: Old Flounder, Flatland’s husband, is a big-wig in the City . . . very much in the know.
[Aus] ‘The Broken-down Squatter’ in ‘Banjo’ Paterson Old Bush Songs 56: When the bigwigs are brought to the Bankruptcy Court, / What chance for a squatter like me.
[UK]‘Taffrail’ Pincher Martin 314: ‘I say, commander,’ one of the firm’s bigwigs had said to Wooten.
[UK]A. Christie Secret Adversary (1955) 83: She was just being sent home to some bigwig.
[UK](con. WWI) J.B. Wharton Squad 211: That’s just propaganda put out by the German big-wigs.
[UK]D. Footman Pig and Pepper (1990) 160: Vickery having gone to see some municipal bigwig, I went down to the Apollo by myself.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 172: The political bigwigs [...] who, in one way or another, derive revenue in return for protection.
[US]J. Thompson Savage Night (1991) 56: The Man went bail for bigwigs in the Klan.
[UK]C. Lee diary 1 Nov. in Eight Bells & Top Masts (2001) 167: He may be a sort of padre but he lives like a bigwig. He’s got a couple of houseboys who’ll do anything for him.
[US]B. Hecht Gaily, Gaily 87: Bigwigs of industry, politics, and the arts felt enhanced by his handshake.
[UK]T. Parker Frying-Pan 60: When the big-wigs ask them, they come out good and pat with the answers.
[Aus]M. Bail Homesickness (1999) 106: The bigwigs in science (there’s Leibnitz, goldilocks Newton) up to the present day.
[NZ]B. Stewart Broken Arse II i: It’s Captain Big-wig. He’s white. He owns the lot.
[UK]M. Amis Experience 328: A clique of Tory bigwigs.
[US]J. Stahl I, Fatty 120: Along with the showbiz bigwigs, the attorney general [...] was on hand.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 106: The bigwigs don’t like my style, but they can’t say I don’t get the job done.
[UK]New European 25-31 Jan. 15/4: Bigwigs had to be summoned to the Bank of England.