Master of the Universe

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The "highly successful business person" sense is derived from Mattel's Masters of the Universe toy line and media franchise, which was launched in 1982. It was first used as such in the 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (see quotations).


Master of the Universe (plural Masters of the Universe)

  1. (religion) God
  2. (idiomatic) A powerful person
    • 1557, Edgar Leoni, transl., Epistle to Henry II, translation of original by Nostradamus:
      First, by them made obstinate by the onetime masters of the universe.
    • 1845, Dumas, Alexander, The Count of Monte Cristo:
      I have told you, where the air is pure, where every sound soothes, where one is sure to be humbled, however proud may be his nature. I love that humiliation, I, who am master of the universe, as was Augustus
    • 1953, Castro, Fidel, History Will Absolve Me:
      They felt themselves lords and masters of the universe, with power over life and death.
  3. (idiomatic) A highly successful business person
    • 1987, Wolfe, Tom, The Bonfire of the Vanities:
      The Masters of the Universe were a set of lurid, rapacious plastic dolls that his otherwise perfect daughter liked to play with. [] On Wall Street he and a few others — how many? — three hundred, four hundred, five hundred? — had become precisely that... Masters of the Universe. There was no limit whatsoever!
    • 2008, Johnson, Boris, Conservative Party Conference:
      No matter how much you may dislike the Masters of the Universe, my friends, there are plenty of other parts of the universe that would welcome them.
    • 2010 June 2, Samuel, Henry, “Vivendi Universal's 'Master of the Universe' Messier trial begins”, in The Daily Telegraph[1], retrieved 13 July 2010:
      The man who once boasted he was "master of the universe" for making Vivendi a global media giant arrived in less triumphant fashion on Wednesday – through the back door of a Paris court.


  • (God):
  • (powerful person): For semantic relationships of this sense, see big cheese in the Thesaurus.
  • (business person): For semantic relationships of this sense, see big cheese in the Thesaurus.