I am looking for an expression (also an idiomatic one) which describes a single famous event such as:

  • a singer who has just one most famous song and than you hear no more about them.

  • a writer who writes just one very popular book (Harper Lee comes to mind) but after that nothing for decades.

Is there an expression for these persons or this kind of events?


4 Answers 4


One hit wonder comes to mind. Here's the wikipedia link.

The term one-hit wonder is most often used to describe music performers with only one top-40 hit single that overshadows their other work.

However, the term is used as well to describe other, related phenomena such as a software company which only has one widely successful release, or for an athlete, known for only one major career event.

  • Hi, Akshay, I edited your post to include the essential part of the link. Linking just a website is not encouraged in this community as your link can become invalid if the linked page changes. Please try to follow the format. Thanks.
    – user140086
    Feb 24, 2016 at 10:14
  • 1
    Of course, this doesn't adequately describe such cases as Harper Lee, where a single work was sufficient to establish the reputations of ten ordinary authors.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 24, 2016 at 13:25

A flash in the pan:

Briefly successful or popular: At first, some of the major record labels thought rock ’n’ roll was just a flash in the pan.
Usage notes: sometimes used in the form no flash in the pan (successful or popular for more than a brief period): This trend is no flash in the pan.

  • 1
    Not really appropriate to Harper Lee, as her one book has remained a best-selling work for decades.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 24, 2016 at 13:26
  • 1
    @Hot Licks Indeed. I was thinking of the singer example and how "then you hear no more about them". But you do hear about Harper Lee, so the question is self-contradictory to some extent.
    – Yay
    Feb 24, 2016 at 13:35
  • You tend to more hear about their product (song, book etc which survive longer ) rather than their author. The idea behind this is: were they really good ( writers/singers/authors etc) or was it just a single fortunate case?
    – user 66974
    Feb 24, 2016 at 18:30

In the event that the 'famous event' has lasting impact (e.g. Harper Lee - To Kill a Mocking Bird, Arundhati Roy - The God of Small Things, Bill Hailey - Rock Around The Clock, ...), the OP's own term - one-off - fits. So too, perhaps, extraordinary and one-of-a-kind.

If the famous event is forgotten then

A one-day wonder

Someone or something that causes interest or excitement for a short period but is then quickly forgotten. Curiously, also found as A seven-day wonder and A nine-day wonder.


  • 1
    Doesn't fit Harper Lee at all.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 24, 2016 at 13:27
  • @HotLicks - fair comment. Edits made!
    – Dan
    Feb 24, 2016 at 14:20

The singer or the one-book writer (but not Harper Lee, as I explain below) has shot his bolt or has shot his wad, defined in The Free Dictionary:

Do all within one's power; exhaust one's resources or capabilities. For example, They were asking for more ideas but Bob had shot his bolt and couldn't come up with any, or Don't shoot your wad with that article or you won't have any material for the sequels. The first expression comes from archery and referred to using up all of one's bolts (short, heavy arrows fired with a crossbow); it was a proverb by the 1200s. The colloquial variant, dating from about 1900, comes from gambling and refers to spending all of a wad of rolled-up banknotes.

For Harper Lee, neither fits, in my opinion, because her first bolt hit the center of the target and when she bet her wad, she hit the jackpot. For Harper Lee, she said what she had to say. This is a slight variant on Henry David Thoreau:

Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than make-believe.

See AZ Quotes and Walden-Chapter 18- The Thoreau Reader

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