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]

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