great unwashed, the

the great unwashed

The general public, especially those of the lower and lower-middle classes. Critics are hailing the film as a modern masterpiece, though it doesn't seem to be causing too great a stir among the great unwashed The world of the super rich is one that we among the great unwashed can't even begin to understand.
See also: great, unwashed
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

the great unwashed

Fig. the general public; the lower middle class. The Simpsons had a tall iron fence around their mansion—put there to discourage the great unwashed from wandering up to the door by mistake, I suppose. Maw says the great unwashed don't know enough to come in out of the rain.
See also: great, unwashed
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

the great unwashed

People use the great unwashed to mean poor or ordinary people. A man quickly led the Queen's husband away from the great unwashed. Note: This expression is used humorously.
See also: great, unwashed
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

the great unwashed

n. most of the common people; the hoi polloi. I usually find myself more in agreement with the great unwashed than with the elite.
See also: great, unwashed
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

great unwashed, the

The working classes. The term showed up in print in the early nineteenth century in Theodore Hook’s The Parson’s Daughter (1833), where it appears in quotation marks. Exactly who first coined the phrase is not known, but in Britain it was used to describe the rabble of the French Revolution who rose up against the privileged classes. Although Eric Partridge said that its snobbishness had made it obsolescent by the 1940s, it is still used ironically.
See also: great
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer

Great Unwashed

A disparaging term for the common man. The phrase first appeared in an 1830 novel, Paul Clifford, by the British novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton: “He is certainly a man who bathes and ‘lives cleanly,' (two especial charges preferred against him by Messrs. the Great Unwashed).” Among other cynics (although they would call themselves realists) who used the phrase was H. L. Mencken, who also referred to the majority of Americans as the “booboisie.”
See also: great, unwashed
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
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References in periodicals archive ?
This is an emotive portrayal of the great unwashed, the multitudes that form the very core of India and yet find mainstream representation only through their extremes.