Definition of top-heavy in US English:



  • 1Disproportionately heavy at the top so as to be in danger of toppling.

    • ‘Many disappeared in the South China Sea - their overcrowded, top-heavy fishing boats swamped by the sea, or sunk by pirates who attacked at night.’
    • ‘This has grown into tall stemmy shrubs, but not yet into mature top-heavy trees.’
    • ‘We wanted a roomy interior and the benefits of a high driving position, but we did not want to make the car look top-heavy.’
    • ‘The becalmed and top-heavy boat started to roll heavily.’
    • ‘It handles brilliantly thanks to the high, wide handlebars, though it is top-heavy at lower speed.’
    • ‘Clambering aboard, top-heavy with a pack full of gear for all weathers, the pre-requisite for any decent holiday in Scotland, I am genuinely surprised at how comfortable and spacious the accommodation is.’
    • ‘The record player is an old Victrola, with the railway-spike needle and a big top-heavy sound-horn, or whatever they're called.’
    • ‘In a squall she heeled over; water rushed in through the gunports of the top-heavy hull and, in a carbon copy of the Mary Rose disaster a century earlier in the Channel, the pride and joy of the royal fleet went down like a stone.’
    • ‘The keyboard is stuck all the way at the bottom of the device, below the big 5-inch display, resulting in a seriously top-heavy design that makes it hard to type.’
    • ‘The country in Yuba, Wisconsin is extremely hilly (it's close to the Mississippi side), and the tobacco tractor had a very high wheel base, making it too top-heavy to use on inclines.’
    • ‘I'm at that stage where my body feels unnaturally lop-sided and top-heavy.’
    • ‘In fact, she generally looks pretty graceless whenever she moves - a bit like a top-heavy giraffe.’
    • ‘A good shake of the bamboo put it to rights but the latter plant has to be treated with more care because the stems can break and they are top-heavy with clusters of fluffy yellow flowers.’
    • ‘Jenssen's placement of thin, spiderweblike shapes beneath heavier bodies of color gives these works a top-heavy feel, as if they risk collapsing beneath their own weight.’
    • ‘The trucks looked top-heavy, and on any journey one was sure to see at least one fallen on its side, its cargo spilling onto the road.’
    • ‘On the way back from the awards banquet, the man from the Optimists Club drove too fast-just like her husband-and Ruth, who was tall and sat forward in the seat, swayed as though she were top-heavy.’
    • ‘Eventually that dense tangle will get worse, causing a top-heavy tree that can break under heavy snow or in high wind.’
    • ‘Stake and support dahlias, gladioli, chrysanthemums and other top-heavy border plants.’
    • ‘They became top-heavy and turned over in the water, unable to right themselves.’
    1. 1.1 (of an organization) having a disproportionately large number of people in senior administrative positions.
      • ‘The charity's staff claim the organisation is top-heavy, but that the management have failed to remain up-to-date with the latest legislation affecting asylum seekers.’
      • ‘The history of the decline of civilizations is not one of inadequate powers to tax, but of top-heavy parasitic bureaucracies.’
      • ‘USAR CA units are very top-heavy with officers and senior NCOs and there are two reasons for this.’
      • ‘EDE was in charge of the Shaw Conference Centre during their protracted strike and has also come under considerable fire for poor financial management and a top-heavy governance model.’
      • ‘The assembly has funded political parties, paid for 10 ministries (when there is no logical case for more than six), and sustained a top-heavy civil service who spend their salaries in the local shops.’
      • ‘They say that Carroll sees the firm as top-heavy with lawyers and accountants.’
      • ‘Many have suffered for being perceived as part of big, top-heavy conglomerates instead of nimble, young start-ups.’
      • ‘However, there was still a major problem at the time. The school was in financial difficulties, with a top-heavy and expensive management team it could not sustain.’
      • ‘The store I worked in was soon top-heavy with managers, with three floor managers and a general manager augmented by several others in training and a co-GM.’
      • ‘A helpful outcome of a globalising economy is that it reduces some of the top-heavy powers and oppressive influence of many national governments, making the world relatively more democratic.’
      • ‘Pension obligations were ballooning, while management clung to a top-heavy bureaucracy and its sprawling mills gobbled up cash for repairs.’
      • ‘The initiative for the meeting is believed to have been Dr Hope's, the second most senior figure in the Church of England, who is widely known to have long been concerned about what he sees as the top-heavy structure of the church.’
      • ‘While government has complained about the amount spent on paying teachers, why doesn't it look at the top-heavy administration and bureaucracy instead?’
      • ‘It is part of a restructuring of staff, which for the number of children at the school, was felt to be too top-heavy at senior level.’
      • ‘Early retirement as a trend hit Ireland during the 1990s when it became popular with employers seeking to restructure top-heavy organisations and draft in younger employees at a lower cost and on a less committed contractual basis.’
      • ‘Saunders adds another ex-head coach and another layer of management to the top-heavy staff, and Washington's new-look receiving corps has an undeniable redundancy factor.’
      • ‘The police do a difficult job, and, generally, they do it well, despite their constant battles with top-heavy administration, resource shortfalls, and lack of staff.’
      • ‘Corruption and top-heavy bureaucracy have deterred many foreign investors, and there is scant prospect of a clean-out while the government remains seemingly opposed to reform of the legal system.’
      • ‘He believed, however, that the NHS was offering a deteriorating service, and he was not impressed by what he saw as top-heavy administrative plans for reorganisation.’
      • ‘Analytical cells do not need top-heavy bureaucracies; instead, they should remain lean and flexible so information can flow efficiently between analysts and decision makers.’
    2. 1.2informal (of a woman) having a disproportionately large bust.
      ‘I'm only 5 ft 2 in tall but I am a top-heavy 36C’
      • ‘A top-heavy nurse in cricket pads and dangling overhead light pack struggles to aim a fire breathing generator in a duel with a whip-cracking foreman.’
      • ‘She's a top-heavy temptress whose well-enhanced front end gets the lion's share of the amorous attention.’
      • ‘I opened the door and the two of them were either side of a stocky young top-heavy woman who bore an uncanny, slightly skewed resemblance to Samantha.’



/ˈtäp ˌhevē//ˈtɑp ˌhɛvi/