7 famous idioms that refer to celebrities like the golden girl

There are several phrases that are often used to discuss famous faces – and not all of them are positive

There are some phrases that are so well used that even though they don’t make any sense at first glance, people know exactly what they mean. These are idioms. There are countless idioms that are used daily in the English language, many of them are related to animals, food and drink, and some are just plain funny or even have sinister meanings.

However, there are also a number of idioms that are used to describe celebrities, which highlights how much society likes to talk about famous people, although not all of them are positive. Here are seven of the best examples of such phrases. Read on and see how much you use yourself.

For even more interesting language-related articles, be sure to check out our dedicated words and meanings page.


Meaning: Someone who is well known to the public. This is another way of saying someone is famous. A variation of this is a “household word”, which refers to a specific brand or company name rather than an individual.

Origin: Shakespeare used the term “house words” in his 1958 play Henry V and used it to refer to familiar things. A line from the play is “Known in his mouth as household words.” The idiom came into widespread use in the 1850s thanks to a weekly magazine called Household Words, which was edited by Charles Dickens.

A wearer of many hats

Meaning: A person who has many occupations, roles, or skills. In the context of famous people, this is often used to mean people who have more than one talent. For example, many people are actors and singers.

Origin: The expression dates back to the mid-19th century. Some believe it comes from a time when hats were given to certain professionals, and those who had different jobs literally wore different hats for different circumstances.

There are several idioms that are often used to discuss famous faces - including thrust into the limelight and golden girl or golden boy.
There are several idioms that are often used to discuss famous faces – including thrust into the limelight and golden girl or golden boy.

One hit wonder

Meaning: The phrase one-hit wonder can be used to refer to a person who is famous for one role, product or work, but has had no other roles, products or works that are notable in terms of the public attention they have received. The phrase can also refer to a viral work that achieves extreme success for the creator, often a song, but then any additional work by the artist is not as popular.

Origin: The phrase has been in use since the 20th century. The earliest known use of the term one-hit wonder was in the American Winnipeg paper in 1977, when the hugely successful group ABBA was described as not a one-hit wonder.

All washed

Meaning: This idiom is used to denote a famous person who is no longer successful, has become unpopular with society, and has little or no chance of success in the future. Sometimes this is specifically related to the person’s age, but this is not always the case.

Origin: The expression has been in use since the 1920s, when it was used to describe actors washing their make-up off their faces when they finished a performance. After a while it meant that someone was done performing forever and their career was over.

Pushing into the limelight or retreating from the limelight

Meaning: Someone who is thrust into the limelight suddenly finds themselves with a lot of public attention, almost overnight, usually because of the high praise they received for a role, product or work. These people gain fame very quickly. On the opposite end of the scale, someone who has shied away from the limelight is a celebrity who has actively taken steps to stay out of the public eye. This may mean that they are not accepting any more roles or releasing new material.

Origin: The expression was first used in the 19th century, at a time when spotlights were used to illuminate actors on stage. It was an intense illumination that was created when a flame fueled by oxygen and hydrogen was directed at a cylinder of quicklime (calcium oxide). If the actor literally went out of the spotlight, he could not be seen by the audience.

Engine and shaker

Meaning: A person who has a lot of power and influence. These people aren’t always celebrities, but they often are.

Origin: The expression was coined by British poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy in his 1874 poem “Ode,” praising the work of musicians and poets. He wrote, “Yet we are the movers and shakers, In the world forever, it seems.” It gained popularity and became more widely used in the 1960s.

Golden boy or golden girl

Meaning: A golden boy or girl is someone who has a lot of success and popularity, often favored and highly admired in their field of work, but this success is often short-lived.

Origin: The origin of this phrase is unclear, but it is believed to have originated in the 20th century.

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