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View synonyms for top banana

top banana

noun

, Slang.
  1. a leading comedian in musical comedy, burlesque, vaudeville, etc.:

    For many years he was top banana on the circuit.

  2. the chief person in a group or undertaking.


top banana

noun

  1. the leading comedian in vaudeville, burlesque, etc
  2. the leader; boss


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Word History and Origins

Origin of top banana1

First recorded in 1950–55

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Idioms and Phrases

Also, top dog . The principal person in a group, organization, or undertaking, as in His plan was to be top banana within ten years , or Now that she's top dog you can't get hold of her at all . The first term comes from show business, where from the early 1900s it has signified the leading comedian (possibly the original allusion was to Frank Lebowitz, a burlesque comedian who used bananas in his act). It also gave rise to second banana , for a supporting actor, usually a straight man. Both were transferred to more general use in the second half of the 1900s, as in executive Peter Barton's statement, “There is a certain pain to being a second banana, but you have to have an ability to sublimate your ego,” quoted in The New York Times , May 15, 1996. The variant, top dog , originated in sports in the late 1800s and signified the odds-on favorite or winner in a contest; it alludes to the dog who wins (comes out on top) in a dogfight.

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Definitions and idiom definitions from Dictionary.com Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

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

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