master


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Jill of all trades(, master of none)

A woman who is skilled in or adept at a wide variety of tasks or abilities (i.e., the female equivalent of "Jack of all trades"). If used with "master of none," it implies that while competent in a variety of things, she is not highly skilled in a particular one. I've had all sorts of different jobs through the years, so I consider myself quite a Jill of all trades! Mary just sort of floated between different interests after she left high school—a Jill of all trades, but master of none.
See also: all, jill, master, of

a Jill of all trades is a master of none

A woman who is somewhat skilled in or adept at a wide variety of tasks or abilities will not have the time or dedication to become truly masterful in any one thing. The female equivalent of the proverb "a Jack of all trades is a master of none." Mary just sort of floated between different interests after she left high school, but never really developed anything career-worthy. A Jill of all trades is a master of none, as they say.
See also: all, jill, master, none, of, trade

Master of the Universe

1. Literally, the supreme being; God. One must always keep in mind the designs and desires of the Master of the Universe if one wishes to enter into heaven in the afterlife.
2. By extension, an extremely powerful, successful, or wealthy person, especially someone working on Wall Street in the US financial sector. John liked to think of himself as a self-styled Master of the Universe after earning his first million playing the stock market.
See also: master, of, universe

jack of all trades, master of none

A person who is able to do many things but does not have a high amount of skill in any one area. A: "My brother can play several instruments, but none very well." B: "You know what they say—jack of all trades, master of none."
See also: all, jack, master, none, of

serve two masters

To simultaneously tend to or support or devote oneself to two different—often conflicting—responsibilities, pursuits, ideas, or people. It comes from the Biblical phrase, "No man can serve two masters." You need to decide if you are married to your wife or to your work because you simply cannot serve two masters.
See also: master, serve, two

be (one's) own master

To not be subject to or controlled by others, especially at work or at home. I have to be my own master, so I couldn't work in a big company like you and have to answer to a boss.
See also: master, own

be (one's) own mistress

Of a woman, to not be subject to or controlled by others, especially at work or at home. I have to be my own mistress, so I couldn't work in a big company like you and have to answer to a boss.
See also: mistress, own

(one's) lord and master

Someone who has total power over one. Used to humorously exaggerated effect, usually in reference to one's spouse. I'd like to hang out with you guys, but I need to go into town to pick a few things up for my lord and master.
See also: and, lord, master

past master

One who is exceptionally skilled or experienced in a particular activity, craft, or field. Typically followed by "in/of/at (something)." Not to toot my own horn, but I consider myself a bit of a past master in cooking. I don't blame you for feeling that way—Jen is a real past master at eroding your self-confidence. He's always been a past master of getting by with doing as little work as possible.
See also: master, past

a man cannot serve two masters

To divide one's attention, efforts, or loyalty between more than one profession, company, goal, pursuit, etc., will result in none of them being done properly. A: "His work has really started to suffer ever since he started that second job." B: "Well, what do you expect? a man cannot serve two masters." I thought I could write in my spare time while I paid the bills with my day job, but I find I just get too burnt out doing it. I suppose I need to choose one or the other, since a man cannot serve to masters.
See also: cannot, man, master, serve, two

no man can serve two masters

To divide one's attention, efforts, or loyalty between more than one profession, company, goal, pursuit, etc., will result in none of them being done properly. A: "His work has really started to suffer ever since he started that second job." B: "Well, what do you expect? No man can serve two masters." I thought I could write in my spare time while I paid the bills with my day job, but I find I just get too burnt out doing it. I suppose I need to choose one or the other, since no man can serve to masters.
See also: can, man, master, no, serve, two

slack master

Someone who is especially lazy, indolent, or given to procrastination. I don't know how a slack master like him manages to get straight A's. That slack master Janet has been pulling our whole project down. I think she's done about 10 minutes of genuine work!
See also: master, slack

fire is a good servant but a bad master

Fire is useful when monitored and controlled. Left unchecked, however, it is quite dangerous and destructive. Hey, we need to blow out these candles before leaving the house. After all, fire is a good servant but a bad master.
See also: bad, but, fire, good, master

Fire is a good servant but a bad master.

Prov. You must be careful to use fire wisely and under control so that it will not hurt you. Don't play with the candle flames, children. Fire is a good servant but a bad master. At camp, we learned how to build and extinguish fires safely, since fire is a good servant but a bad master.
See also: bad, but, fire, good, master

jack of all trades is a master of none

Prov. If you are able to do a lot of things fairly well, you will not have time to learn to do one thing extremely well. Jill: I envy Bob; he can do so many things. He writes novels, paints pictures, makes sculptures, and even plays the dulcimer. Jane: It's true he does a lot of things, but he probably doesn't do them all terribly well. A jack of all trades is a master of none, you know.
See also: all, jack, master, none, of, trade

No man can serve two masters.

Prov. You cannot work for two different people, organizations, or purposes in good faith, because you will end up favoring one over the other. (Biblical.) Al tried going to school and working, both full-time, but soon discovered that he could not serve two masters.
See also: can, man, master, no, serve, two

*past master (at something)

Fig. someone proven extremely good or skillful at an activity. (*Typically: be ~; become ~.) Mary is a past master at cooking omelets. Pam is a past master at the art of complaining.
See also: master, past

past master

A person who is thoroughly experienced or exceptionally skilled in some activity or craft. For example, We're lucky to get Ella, because she's a past master at fundraising. This expression probably alludes to the original literal meaning, that is, one who formerly held the post of master in a lodge or other organization. Although past mistress was used for an exceptionally skilled woman in the mid-1800s, it is heard less often today, master serving for both sexes. [Mid-1800s]
See also: master, past

serve two masters

FORMAL
If a person or organization tries to serve two masters, they try to be loyal to two opposing principles, beliefs or organizations. An organization such as the BBC can either make a profit or provide an excellent public service. It cannot, however, be asked to serve two masters. Note: This expression is used in the Bible. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says: `No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.' (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13)
See also: master, serve, two

serve two masters

take orders from two superiors or follow two conflicting or opposing principles or policies at the same time.
This phrase alludes to the warning given in the Bible against trying to serve both God and Mammon (Matthew 6:24).
See also: master, serve, two

be your own ˈmaster/ˈmistress

be free to make your own decisions rather than being told what to do by somebody else: There’s no point trying to tell him what to do. He’s his own master, as you know.
See also: master, mistress, own

a ˌpast ˈmaster (in/of/at something)

a person who is very good at doing something: He’s a past master at making other people feel guilty.
See also: master, past

serve two ˈmasters

(usually used in negative sentences) support two opposing parties, principles, etc. at the same time: Government ministers are not allowed to work for private companies as nobody can serve two masters at once.This expression comes from the Bible.
See also: master, serve, two
References in classic literature ?
"Master Jacques," he cried, "let fate take its course!" The procurator wheeled round in affright; it seemed to him that pincers of iron had clutched his arm.
Let things take their course, Master Jacques, 'tis fate!
Jacques Charmolue recalled him wholly to a sense of reality by addressing to him this question: "Come, now, master, when will you come to aid me in making gold?
"Master Jacques read Michel Psellus' ' Dialogus de Energia et Operatione Daemonum .' What we are doing is not wholly innocent."
Some of these stood respectfully at a distance; but two of them, women, perpetrated the hostile act of clutching the master around the neck.
"Then White Fang, to show his friendship, will have to be chief mourner at the funeral," laughed the master.
Then he lay down with a contented grunt at the master's feet, observing all that went on, ever ready to spring to his feet and fight for life with the terrors he felt must lurk under the trap-roof of the dwelling.
"Still," said Sancho, "I would be glad if your worship would make Master Pedro ask his ape whether what happened your worship in the cave of Montesinos is true; for, begging your worship's pardon, I, for my part, take it to have been all flam and lies, or at any rate something you dreamt."
At this point Master Pedro came up in quest of Don Quixote, to tell him the show was now ready and to come and see it, for it was worth seeing.
But enough of that for the present; let us go and see Master Pedro's show, for I am sure there must be something novel in it."
"Something!" said Master Pedro; "this show of mine has sixty thousand novel things in it; let me tell you, Senor Don Quixote, it is one of the best-worth-seeing things in the world this day; but operibus credite et non verbis, and now let's get to work, for it is growing late, and we have a great deal to do and to say and show."
``My master has disposed of them already,'' said Gurth.
``Barely,'' said Gurth, though the sum demanded was more reasonable than he expected, ``and it will leave my master nigh penniless.
If you will not take seventy, I will carry this bag'' (and he shook it till the contents jingled) ``back to my master.''
If the lineal descendants of Ham are alone to be scriptur- ally enslaved, it is certain that slavery at the south must soon become unscriptural; for thousands are ushered into the world, annually, who, like myself, owe their existence to white fathers, and those fa- thers most frequently their own masters.