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The great and the good

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 07, 2008 at 04:34:

In Reply to: The great and the good posted by Younhee on March 06, 2008 at 16:18:

: What is the meaning of "the great and the good"?

In general, the phrase is meant to characterize someone as both great and good. They are far from synonymous. Napoleon was great; but was he good? Great, when not referring to a person, means large, or of large renown. It is often used colloquially with big, as when something is said to be "great big thing." Said of people it means famous, or of large reputation. You can use it of a person to say that he is large, although that's not often done. (He was a great, big fellow, and a great, big liar.)

The world is presumably full of good people, few of them great, that is, greatly known. Mother Teresa was exceptionally good most of her life, but could only be considered great, if at all, in her latter years, when she was of great renown.
If there is some saying using the phrase "the great and the good" I'm not aware of it.

The colloquial use of "great" to mean wonderful or admirable is not relevant to the phrase you quote. (I had a great time, he's a great companion, and makes a great beef stroganoff, which he serves with a great red wine. Here you could substitute "good," and probably should.)