HEED THE VOX POPULI, AND TAKE THIS WORD OF THE DAY QUIZ!
Origin of has-been
Words nearby has-been
What does has-been mean?
Has-been is a negative term for a person who is considered to have lost or to be far removed from the success, popularity, or skill that they once had.
Has-been is used as an insult. It’s most often applied to famous people, such as athletes and actors—to be called a has-been, a person has to have been known for having an outstanding quality.
Another insulting term based on has-been is never-was, which is intended to suggest that a person was never known for having any outstanding qualities. It’s typically used in conjunction with has-been to insult someone in an even worse way, as in You’re not even a has-been—you’re a never-was! Another less-common term formed in the same way is could-have-been, referring to a person who never became successful but could have. This can be an insult or a compliment, depending on how it’s used.
Example: I don’t need advice from some has-been—I want to learn from someone who’s been able to stay in the game.
Where does has-been come from?
The first records of the term has-been in its current sense come from the 1700s. (Earlier uses of the word are now obsolete.) Turning a verb phrase into a noun in this way is somewhat uncommon in English, but there are at least a few similar terms, like the haves and the have-nots. Another word that turns a verb phrase into an insulting term for a person based on their past and present is sellout.
Has-been packs a lot of insult power into just two simple words. It implies that someone was once at the top of their game—they were successful and popular. But it very cruelly claims that is no longer the case. This is done to indicate that the person is no longer relevant or important or that other people are simply better at what they used to be good at.
Has-been is often used in negative criticism of (often aging) celebrities or famous athletes who are supposedly past the prime of their career. Such people are sometimes also negatively described as washed-up or yesterday’s news. The term is sometimes applied to non-famous people as long as they were at least somewhat well-known for having some positive quality.
Did you know ... ?
What are some other forms related to has-been?
- has-beens (plural)
What are some synonyms for has-been?
What are some words that share a root or word element with has-been?
What are some words that often get used in discussing has-been?
How is has-been used in real life?
Has-been is always used in a negative way as an insult, even when people apply it to themselves.
They could bring in Kristin Chenoweth and some has-been Broadway director to force us to rehearse and produce the musical in 2 weeks. It would be high drama because we’d all be still be on-call during the production. Trying to teach career firefighters choreography. Sells itself.
— Melanie (@melanieannecole) May 24, 2020
When it comes to income the way down feels a lot worse than the way up felt good.
Sometimes it’s not better to be a has-been than a never-was.
— Jayson Gould (@lordevinj) May 22, 2020
@andrewlowe it's official i'm a has-been
— tyler oakley (@tyleroakley) February 11, 2016
Try using has-been!
Is has-been used correctly in the following sentence?
The critic called the singer a has-been who hasn’t had a hit song in 20 years.
Example sentences from the Web for has-been
As for the event itself, well, the has-been is Sarah Palin, and the obnoxious man is Donald Trump.
As a writer Shepard is not nearly in the land of the has-been.
So significant,” he burst out, “that the minute the Express appears this afternoon Harrison Blake is a has-been!Counsel for the Defense|Leroy Scott
"We haven't a has-been in the bunch," asserted Silence quietly.Frank Merriwell's Son|Burt L. Standish
"Be careful, and don't make me a has-been," David cautioned.To Him That Hath|Leroy Scott
The Will-be and the Has-been touch us more nearly than the Is.The Note-Books of Samuel Butler|Samuel Butler
If you don't, I can tell you that it's a fact; not a 'has-been', but an 'is'!The Honorable Senator Sage-Brush|Francis Lynde