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brass hat

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noun Slang.
  1. a person in a high position, especially a top-ranking army or navy officer.

Origin of brass hat

First recorded in 1890–95
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for brass hat

Historical Examples

  • I remember one brass-hat addressing me for quite ten minutes, saying something new all the time.

    Indiscretions of Archie

    P. G. Wodehouse


British Dictionary definitions for brass hat

brass hat

noun
  1. British informal a top-ranking official, esp a military officer

Word Origin

C20: from the gold leaf decoration on the peaks of caps worn by officers of high rank
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Idioms and Phrases with brass hat

brass hat

A high-ranking official, as in All the brass bats were invited to the sales conference. The terms big brass, top brass, and the brass all refer to high officials considered as a group. For example, John's one of the top brass in town—he's superintendent of schools. The origin of this term is disputed. Most authorities believe it originated in the late 19th-century British army, when senior officers had gold leaves on their cap brims. Another theory is that it referred to the cocked hat worn by Napoleon and his officers, which they folded and carried under the arm when indoors. In French these were called chapeaux à bras (“hats in arms”), a term the British are supposed to have anglicized as brass. By World War I brass hat referred to a high-ranking officer in Britain and America, and in World War II it was joined by the other brass phrases. After the war these terms began to be used for the top executives in business and other organizations.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.