I am wondering what "a big tradition" means in the following sentences:

‘Survival?’ Hannah turns to him.

‘This game we used to play at school,’ Femi explains.

Duncan’s wife Georgina chips in: ‘Oh God. Duncan’s told me stories about it. Really awful stuff. He told me about boys being taken out of their beds at night, left in the middle of nowhere—’

‘Yeah, that’s what happened,’ Femi says. ‘They’d kidnap a younger boy from his bed and take him as far as they could away from the school, deep into the grounds.’

‘And we’re talking big grounds,’ Angus says. ‘And the middle of nowhere. Pitch-black. No light from anything.’

‘It sounds barbaric,’ Hannah says, her eyes wide.

‘It was a big tradition,’ Duncan says. ‘They’d been doing it for hundreds of years, since the start of the school.’

  • Lucy Foley, The Guest List, Chapter 15

The speakers are at the rehearsal dinner the day before the wedding between Jules and Will. The ushers all went to the same public school as Will, and they are now remembering the game they used to play, which is called "Survival." (The narrator here is Johnno.)

In this part, I am wondering what "a big tradition" would mean here.

Would that mean "a long tradition"? Or, "a popular tradition"...?

  • 3
    It's not particularly specific, but big = important is probably the main attribute here. Obviously an "important" tradition has probably been around for quite a long time (that is after all what "traditional" means in the first place), and an "informal" tradition like this one would hardly last very long if it wasn't popular (if the students didn't maintain this particular tradition, it's not likely the administrative staff and teachers would keep it going! :). Apr 19, 2021 at 11:54
  • Compare a big deal.
    – stangdon
    Apr 19, 2021 at 14:28
  • Dear everyone, thank you very much for the explanations. So "big" here means important, popular, long-running and widespread and everything! So it was their informal way to say "important". I sincerely appreciate your help. :) Apr 20, 2021 at 13:35

1 Answer 1


As this is a conversation among peers, the specific meaning is not necessary. Both stangdon and FumbleFingers had it correct. 'Big' here means all of it's definitions of 'important', 'long-running', 'well-known', and 'popular'

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .