big gun

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big gun (plural big guns)

  1. (military) A large artillery gun or one of the largest-caliber naval guns (as on a battleship).
    • 1870 Dec. 2, "The Suez Mail," Southland Times (New Zealand), Issue 1342, p. 2:
      London, Nov. 1: The big guns opened fire on Paris today at mid-day.
    • 1968 March 26, "Battleship begins Viet Tests," Evening News (Newburgh, NY, USA), p. 1 (retrieved 19 Aug. 2011):
      The smaller crew was possible because the battleship was stripped of all but her big guns.
    • 2008 Dec. 6, William J. Bennett and John Cribb, "Deadly resolve answered attack ," Daily Courier (USA) (retrieved 19 Aug. 2011):
      The USS West Virginia became one of many symbols of American resolve. . . . Her big guns pounded the enemy at the battles of Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.
  2. (idiomatic, by extension, usually pluralized) A person, group, thing, or course of action that is powerful, influential, or particularly effective.
    • 1888 June 6, "A Great Day for Big Guns," New York Times (retrieved 20 Aug. 2011):
      This has been a great day for the big guns. This does not refer to Prof. Lummis and the other big guns of the Board of Visitors, for every day is a great one for them.
    • 1957 Aug. 28, Ed Wilks, "Sports" (Headline), Park City News (USA), p. 15 (retrieved 20 Aug. 2011):
      Berra Is Big Gun In Yankee Victory
    • 2001 June 29, Frank Pellegrini, "Whatever Happened to Military Restructuring?," Time:
      And the administration's big guns — Bush, Cheney, Powell and once-and-current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — had the clout to make bold and necessary changes.
    • 2007 March 26, Yuri Wuensch, "Eric Clapton simply masterful," (Canada) (retrieved 20 Aug. 2011):
      Clapton kept the big guns for last, finishing the set off with Derek and the Domino's "Layla", complete with the haunting instrumentals at song's end.