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What Does It Mean to Be a "Big Nose"?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 23, 2024
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Not to be confused with the person who literally has a big nose, being a big nose indicates that the person in question is nosy, meddlesome, or intrusive into things that others view as being private. A big nose tends to get too involved in other people’s activities and may also be referred to as a busybody. This term is also frequently applied to investigators, police detectives, or other agency personnel that make it their business to know other people’s business. Someone might say, “The big nose was asking a lot of questions.”

Terms like "big nose" are known as idioms. Idiomatic expressions can be interesting pieces of a language, but they can also sometimes be confusing, especially for people who are not fluent in the particular language in which they are used. “Raining cats and dogs” is an idiom, one that could obviously be very confusing. Clearly, it is an exaggerated descriptive phrase, and not meant to be taken literally in any way.

Being a big nose may also be seen as exaggeration since in literal terms it has nothing to do with the actual size of that particular facial feature. It can be said that such a person leads with his nose, or sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong. Calling someone a big nose is another way of telling that person, “Mind your own business.” While it might not seem very polite to use such terms, it is not polite to invade another person’s privacy either.

A person who snoops or asks too many questions may also be referred to as a "nosy parker." A person can get him or herself into trouble by being too nosy. There are many stories and shows that depict the nosy neighbor getting in over his head with the police or the bad guys, because he or she tried to play amateur detective. Sneaking around or otherwise getting involved in other people’s private affairs without their permission is generally not a good idea.

The term is not just reserved for the sneaky type of nosy person either. It may also be used to describe someone that asks personal questions in front of other people. “That big nose asked me how much money I make per year, in front of everyone at the party!”

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Discussion Comments
By mrwormy — On Jan 08, 2015

I get called a "big nose" a lot because it's part of my job to investigate insurance fraud claims. If a worker starts receiving disability payments, for instance, the employer may hire me to determine if the injury is real. I have to do things like stake out his house or follow him during his daily routines. I may even have to ask his friends some pointed questions about the alleged disability, and they usually say I have a big nose and I should mind my own business.

I agree that most people should respect personal boundaries and stay out of other people's affairs, but I also think if a person is benefiting financially from a fraudulent scheme, somebody needs to ask the hard questions and protect employers from losses.

By Reminiscence — On Jan 07, 2015

We had a "big nose" at work for a while. She would lurk near the coffee break station or in the employee cafeteria and listen for any bits of office gossip. If she managed to get something useful, she would casually share that information with some gossipy co-workers at lunch, knowing that it would eventually get out to everyone else. It got really bad, with people's most private problems getting put out on the gossip grapevine. One person's marriage actually ended after she blurted out the details of an office romance she witnessed.

We found out how hard it was to get rid of someone with a big nose, however. Because some people enjoy hearing gossip, she was pretty well protected from above. What the rest of us decided to do was put out some disinformation. We started talking about a non-existent co-worker who had some serious gambling problems. She was always around when we complained about his work or his constant begging or his marital situation. When she thought she had heard enough, she went to our supervisor and "spilled the beans" on Bob in accounting. She thought he needed to know. He got mad and reprimanded for being an office gossip. He knew there was no Bob.

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