I don't mean the metaphor "big brother" or "Big Brother" as in the government or other powerful entity.

I mean the original meaning of "big brother sees you".

I am a big brother. Or was. I never really "spied" on my little brother. Was I not a normal big brother? Was that my "job"? Is a big brother supposed to be like an extension of the parents, keeping tabs on the little brother? Did I fail in my job as a big brother growing up?

I've always been kind of disturbed by that "saying" or phrase or whatever it is. "Big brother sees you" gives me the creeps.

(Serious question.)

  • 5
    It's from Orwell's 1984. Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 14:17
  • 2
    (But it's Big Brother is watching you, not sees.) Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 14:27
  • I don't understand what you are asking. Before Orwell's take on it, your phrase just meant that you were looking out for your little brother - not spying. Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 14:37
  • Big Brother is a term from George Orwell's story 1984, and it does not reflect or promote actions of actual brothers in any way. It is largely unacceptable to spy on other people.
    – user363661
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 18:44

1 Answer 1


in 1984 (a book by George Orwell, published in 1949) Big Brother, is the leader of the political party in power. The world is a dystopia with posters that literally say "BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU"

The party controls everything- it controls when your TV turns on, so you can do morning calisthenics (and there's a camera so they can watch you do them). Everything is monitored, and moderated. There is an entire ministry dedicated to altering records as the party sees fit (like when Stalin removed Avel Enukidze from a picture).

A bit of speculation- Big brothers have certain roles in western society- one of which is protector, but not in a Oedpial way (like a father would be), which is probably why Orwell chose that instead of "FATHER IS WATCHING YOU." The implication is that "you are being spied on because I know what's best for you" and it's part of the propaganda strategy for the Party to make you feel ok with being spied on, but also to remember that you are being spied on, so you better behave (sort of like putting fake security cameras everywhere)

It's a good book, and a short read, you should check it out, so I won't spoil things about the plot.

  • The question does say: I don't mean the metaphor "big brother" or "Big Brother" as in the government or other powerful entity. So I don't really know what OP is asking. Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 14:33
  • 1
    @WeatherVane The OP could easily have heard "Big Brother" as meaning 'government" without understanding the origin, or that the origin is about government. This answer does a great job of explaining the origin. Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 14:35

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