Big time

Posted by Smokey Stover on January 04, 2005

In Reply to: Big time posted by Tom on January 04, 2005

: Can you guys throw some light on the etymology of the phrase 'big time'? and also can you explain how does the meaning 'greatly' fit into this phrase, as it looks to be more synonymous with 'long time'?

Big time can be used as a noun phrase, as an adjective (big-time) and as an adverb. I don't see any greatly attached, so perhaps you'd like to provide some context. I suspect you are wondering about the adverb, which I suppose is related to the noun. An example or two of its use as a noun, possibly not relevant to your purpose, follow. "He's a good comedian, but not ready for the big time." (He's not ready for national exposure or professional competition.) An older usage would be: "We had a really big time at the fair." (We enjoyed ourselves greatly, we had a really good time.) From the first example, meaning something like "competing or performing on a national scale, or professional", we get the adverb. "Was he hurt?" "Big time." (He was hurt badly.) "Did he lash out?" "Oh, big time." He lashed out on a national scale, that is, to a huge extent. The only way "greatly" fits into this is as an alternative or an explanation. Greatly is an intensifier, so is "big time" as an adverb. An explanation of the phrase might be easier if we had some context. SS