I’ve heard this word and may have even said it once or twice, but I’ve never written it and today it came up in my Toastmasters meeting. I’m writing this late – very late – to meet my word-a-day requirement and put in the work. I’ll do some make up work tomorrow as penance.
“We do know that “highfalutin” is an American coinage and first appeared in the mid-1800s. “Highfalutin” was one of a number of popular epithets of the day, including “stuffed shirt” and “stuck-up,” with which 19th century Americans expressed their disrespect for those who flaunted their wealth and power.
While the origin of “highfalutin” may be a mystery, there are two generally accepted hunches, either of which might be true. The “high” in “highfalutin” is almost certainly our common adjective, signifying either physical height or, figuratively, magnitude.
Some authorities suggest that the “falutin” in “highfalutin” is a modification of “fluting,” meaning to play a flute or produce sounds similar to those made by a flute. Perhaps, goes this theory, “highfalutin” was inspired by the airy, delicate speech tones of hoity-toity rich folks. There’s no evidence to support this theory, but it’s not implausible.
The other popular theory traces the “falutin” to “flying” or “flown,” making “highfalutin” the equivalent of “high-flown,” meaning “exaggerated” or “elevated.” What makes this theory the more plausible of the two is the fact that “high-flown” has been used as an adjective meaning “extravagant or bombastic” since the mid-1600s (“Sentiments, which are occasionally too high-flown and overstrained, 1784), so this theory is actually grounded in an existing idiom.
— Quote Source – http://www.word-detective.com/2009/06/highfalutin/