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Once heard someone saying "Thank you, my big man." For whom is to use "big man?" For someone friendly, someone like big brothers, or someone like a guardian? I want to know how that word sounds to you and how you use that word. Is it okay to use it as: "You're my big man," "You're the big man," "Big man, you rock," or "See you later, big man?"

Thanks.

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    A man might say this to a young boy, for example, to his nephew. It is a kind of solidarity-building or bonding between the older speaker and the child. By young, I mean younger than "the age of reason".
    – TRomano
    Mar 21, 2015 at 14:52

2 Answers 2

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The expression big man is full of complex social, relational and emotional connotations. In it's literal usage big man can refer to a tall, stout or muscular man:

big

adjective (bigger, biggest)

1.0 Of considerable size or extent:

man

noun (plural men)

1.0 An adult human male:

ODO

It can be used as to compliment or encourage maturity in a boy:

big

1.2 Grown-up:

man

1.5 A person with the qualities associated with males, such as bravery, spirit, or toughness:

ODO

It can be used as to compliment a man or a boy:

big man

noun

a man of the highest status or power within a group, as a leader

Dictionary.com

6

bigman

A very large, important, man. One who has many friends and great luck in the sexual world. A man of great power or might.

by Tyreek May 14, 2006

Urban Dictionary

It is part of a colloquial set phrase with similar complimentary meaning:

big man on campus

noun

a well-respected or popular student

Dictionary.com

It can be used to console a smaller man:

12

bigman

Ironically, a salutation to someone small in stature...

by derangedpoet July 14, 2003

Urban Dictionary

It is sometimes used to mock people:

TOP DEFINITION

Big Man

A male human being who does or has done something that makes them feel superior to others, or very good about themselves, even though they know that their accomplishment doesn't truly mean anything.

Just a few examples of being a Big Man include:

Driving much faster than the person in the lane next to you
Eating more than anyone else at a party

Having a vanity license plate with a "cool" word

Beating someone by a lot in a game

Wearing sunglasses all the time

Drinking more alcohol than someone else

Having a "cool" nickname

Cracking your knuckles for emphasis

by Rufus Rosenstein August 17, 2004

3

Big Man

A hard gangster. Somebody who is the top shooter and thinks they are invincible and are a player with the ladies.

by BLOOD DIAMOND June 04, 2009

8

bigman

Sarcastic response to someone bragging about something.

11

Big Man

A person of great stature that towers above all of us, except for the baby giraffe, often gets stuck in small places and has tendency to become tired and agitated. also can become unsatisfyingly hungry.

often performs stupid acts then lives to regret them because of peers such as the baby giraffe

by mysticmike666 January 28, 2009

13

big man

A term used sarcastically towards those who make petty insults from a position of anonimity.

by Gumba Gumba August 03, 2004

14

Big Man

a huge over weight man you loves getting totaly stupid faced and pretending to be passed out so all his frends will tea bag him in the mouth. ass well as paying a fat hooker to give him a slater

by boss October 25, 2004

Urban Dictionary

It has several other social connotations that influence the meaning of the phrase:

2

Big Man

An extremely large piece of shit.

by Agatster February 08, 2009

4

Big Man

A character from Robert Kelly's hip-hop opera "Trapped in the Closet". Big Man also happens to be an asthmatic midget stripper. The severity of this character's random traits lead some to believe that the outrageous occurences of R. Kelly's hip-hop opera are just a ploy to make the public forget his "golden shower" upon a girl not yet of age.

by RSB December 26, 2006

5

big man

the nickname for Julius in the show Everbody Hates Chris...

by potattto February 10, 2011

Urban Dictionary


Conclusion:

A phrase so full of exotic meanings can be risky, so if you use big man in any way other than its literal sense, you should be confident in your relationship with the people you are talking with. Since the exact meaning will be determined by tone of voice, facial expression, and body language as well as the emotional, relational, and social context of the situation, there is a lot of room for misunderstanding.

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  • This part of your description doesn't seem apt: "It can be used to console a smaller man". This 'ironic' use is normally an affectionate term. It's the other way round version of "Little John" in Robin Hood. It's got nothing to do with consoling anyone! Oct 9, 2019 at 9:55
  • So, @Araucaria, you are free to reject documented uses of a word, but that would keep your analysis of the English language at the shallow end. Welcome to the high dive. 😎
    – ScotM
    May 26, 2020 at 22:31
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Big Man is a complex term, because it is almost always used metaphorically. It differs from the literal use of the words big man, i.e. someone who is big because of their weight or build.

It can be used to acknowledge accomplishment:

You solved the sum all by yourself? Wow! Amazing Big Man.

But it's mostly used to indicate power relations between people of differentiated power/social status:

He is a 'Big Man' and the 'little people' are finding it hard to stand up to him.

Here the two metaphors 'big man' and 'little people' are working in conjunction.

Since Big Man is mostly used in situations where power is at play, it is susceptible to irony with its meanings fluctuating between mockery and praise. Since the big man is the supposedly more-powerful, richer one in an interaction, you can never really know if people who interact with him call him this out of respect or if they use it to mock him. Calling him Big Man but with a smirk on your face, "yes Big Boss," but inside you are hurling obscenities.

Big Man is almost always used in its pejorative sense when its used to refer to authoritarian rulers and other politicians who abuse power.

To sum it up, a man can only become big if he performs his bigness, this means that he must do something before someone and these someones must be awed by that action. The more people that are awed the bigger the person gets, in no time the man's identity might consolidate as that of the big man. But to maintain the status, he has to keep on performing his bigness and wowing followers. This explains why big men tend to have loyalists, sycophants, and the like. Big man is a playful term and I agree with the previous post -- know the person and understand the context before using it.

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