big tent


: a widely inclusive composition or character that allows people of differing backgrounds, opinions, and interests to be members of a group or organization (such as a political party)
… Democratic talk of a big tent was becoming alarmingly familiar as the Party dealt with what amounted to a case of "values" shock—the post-election impression that Democrats keep losing because they have lost touch with mainstream American values.Peter J. Boyer, New Yorker, 14 Nov. 2005
I feel very comfortable in the Republican tent. It's a big tent. It goes all the way from the right, all the way crossing the center line.Arnold Schwarzenegger, PBS Newshour, 22 June 2007
We have big arguments within the party because we got a big tentBarack Obama, quoted in Rolling Stone, 14 Oct. 2010
also : a group or organization that has a widely inclusive composition or character
When the parties were big tents, you had to make deals within your party in order to govern. William Schneider, CNN, 24 May 2001
… Orthodox Judaism is a big tent that includes both fundamentalists and nonfundamentalists … Alan Reder, Yoga Journal, July 2001
Irvin and his writers realize that pop music is an awfully big tent, one where greatness can be bestowed not only on the sublime … but on the ridiculous … Bradley Bambarger, Billboard, 28 July 2001
big-tent adjective
… a new big-tent party that could thrive as ethnic and racial minorities become a majority of the electorate. Nicholas Confessore, New York Times Book Review, 15 Oct. 2006
Thrilled as they may still be with their victory, many Democrats are now realizing that … their future depends on a tricky proposition: actually becoming the centrist, big-tent party they've spent two years claiming to be. Jonathan Darman et al., Newsweek, 20 Nov. 2006
The label's roster illustrates how country music has become the big-tent genre that rock used to be … Louis Hau, Billboard, 12 Dec. 2009
Instead, MTV is adopting a big-tent strategy—attempting to practice the musical politics of inclusion by embracing an increasingly wide range of music at the same time. David Wild, Rolling Stone, 6 Feb. 1997

Word History

First Known Use

1975, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of big tent was in 1975

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Cite this Entry

“Big tent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 May. 2024.

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