Big Fish in a Small Pond

Meaning of “Big Fish in a Small Pond”

The phrase “big fish in a small pond” means someone influential or important in his own circle of friends, workplace or society. It also means an overqualified person who only wants to stay in his limited area and does not cross its boundaries.

Origin of “Big Fish in a Small Pond”

The phrase “big fish in a small pond” is an American phrase. It appeared in The Galveston Daily News in its June publication in 1881. It appeared as “They are big fish in a small pond.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Big Fish, Small Pond by Laurence Overmire

The corporation got so big
Swallowing little corporation
After little corporation
It finally swallowed—Itself.

The destruction was so vast
So completely global
It was impossible to figure out
Who to blame.

The poem criticizes capitalism and industrialism, saying big corporations are slowly eating up small businesses. Finally destroyed themselves with no one to blame them. The writer talks about the global level recession and financial problems caused by a big corporate company. It could be direct or indirect. However, they don’t know who is willing to take the blame.

Example #2

Little Fish in A Big Pond by Dick Haymes

A little fish in a big pond has plenty of room to swim
But swimming around are big fish all ready to pounce on him

Back to his little pond he starts to roam
The little fish spreads his fins and begins to swim back home

That’s me, a little fish in a big pond, all wrong
That’s me, a little fish where a little fish don’t belong

A little man in a big town gets butterflies in his dome
I’m ready to spread my fin and begin to swim back home

To the little pond where a little fish and a little man belong
A little fish in a big pond has gotta have lots of heart

For swimming around are big fish, but if he’s the least bit smart
Back to his little pond he doesn’t go

The little fish spreads his fins and begins to grow, grow, grow
That’s you, a little fish in a big pond, all right

Me too, a little fish, but we gotta stand up and fight
A little man in a big town don’t have to get out and roam

Stop taking it on the chin and begin to feel at home
In the bigger pond where the bigger fish and the bigger men belong

The song explains what happens when they move to cities and find many rich people living around them. Although they may face difficulties or return to their village, sometimes these little fish also learn to roam around in the cities and find ways to join the league of the big fish. Although the phrase has been changed, its meanings are almost the same. The whole poem has become an extended metaphor of the poor and the rich and their interaction in urban areas prevalent with capitalist mentality.

Example #3

A Big Fish in a Small Pond by Mike Ike

The author, Mike Ike, has been a pastor and a practicing Christian. He wrote this story to tell how his use of faith to face the challenges that life throws on him, but faith has not helped him most of the time leading him to experience bouts of depression. However, he does not deny the role of his faith, underlining his point that God has given hundreds of gifts to the people to fight against odds. It is the use of these gifts that a person can change his life dramatically after praying. The title shows that despite being a very insignificant person in the religious hierarchy. He rose up to the state that only externalities and their practice do not help people. It is to realize one’s true potential in the small circle to join the big circle and then benefit from it.

Example #4

Market Shark: How to Be a Big Fish in a Small Pond by Christopher V. Flett

This book advises parents that they should make their children find a niche in the smaller markets or career skills first instead of chasing their dreams of being stardom. He believes that becoming a market shark is easy. However, becoming a whale swallowing up sharks that seems an impossible task. However, the advice is for tapping resources in the present small market and use them to set up and establish a profitable business. The sane writer uses this phrase to mark his point that it is easy to succeed in a small market then to join a big league and face big challenges.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “Luke was bragging of doing business in this small beach town and bought a villa. It shows that he is just a big fish in the small pond; I mean in his town.”

Example #2: “If you don’t expand your knowledge and stop learning, you will be just a big fish in a small pond.”

Example #3: “Mathew scores A+ in mathematics every time. His friend Zeke scores A+ in all subjects. So Mathew is a big fish in a small pond, he should work harder on all subjects.”

Example #4: “If a celebrity visits a small town, they are like a big fish in a small pond.”

Example #5: “Kira has a start-up because she likes to be a big fish in a small pond. If she joins a big company, she will have to report to superiors, which she hates.”