mother of

The best or greatest of a type, as in That was the mother of all tennis matches. This expression originated during the Gulf War as a translation of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's term umm al-ma'arik, for “major battle”; the Arabic “mother of” is a figure of speech for “major” or “best.” It was quickly adopted and applied to just about any person, event, or activity. [Slang; late 1980s]

Nearby words

  1. mother hubbard,
  2. mother language,
  3. mother liquor,
  4. mother lode,
  5. mother nature,
  6. mother of coal,
  7. mother of god,
  8. mother of parliaments,
  9. mother of pearl,
  10. mother of satan

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