Grandee vs bigwig

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my usual question - are these words synonymous? Also, are they in common use, or rather rare or archaic?

In peacetime, he circumnavigated his kingdom, calling on local bigwigs to make sure they were doing their jobs properly.

By referendum day, says one Convservative grandee, the anti-English tone in Scotland, combined with the promise of further devolution and the preservation of the hated Barnett formula, had rendered the status quo unsustainable.

Thank you in advance :) .
  • perpend

    American English
    "bigwigs" is very understandable in American English.

    I have never heard "grandee".

    From your sentence, I could imagine it being similar in meaning.

    EDIT: owlman-crossing.


    Senior Member
    English (American)
    I'm pretty sure I've only seen "grandee" in old (19th-century and earlier) texts, and only in what the OED lists as its principal sense: "A Spanish or Portuguese nobleman of the highest rank."

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Grandee is in common use in Britain. It has the same meaning as bigwig, plus a suggestion of high social class. So, for instance, you'll find that "Tory grandee" is a far more common phrase than "Labour grandee".
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