ˈpü-ˌbä How to pronounce pooh-bah (audio)
variants or less commonly poo-bah
often capitalized P&B
: a person holding many public or private offices
: a person in high position or of great influence

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The original Pooh-Bah was an arrogant, buffoonish bureaucrat introduced in the 1885 Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Mikado. In that show, the character Pooh-Bah, whose title is "Lord High Everything Else," very "humbly" agrees to accept several important government offices (and their salaries) after a series of officials resign. He'll do anything if the bribe is big enough, and he loves to strut and show off to anyone who might be impressed by his grandeur. It didn't take English speakers long to adopt pooh-bah as a term for someone who holds either many offices or a high position, and the word still often carries a suggestion of pompousness.

Word History


Pooh-Bah, character in Gilbert and Sullivan's opera The Mikado (1885) bearing the title Lord-High-Everything-Else

First Known Use

1886, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pooh-bah was in 1886


Dictionary Entries Near pooh-bah

Cite this Entry

“Pooh-bah.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pooh-bah. Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

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