House of cards

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The idiom house of cards dates back to the late 1600s. Like many idioms, house of cards is an expression with its roots in a literal meaning. We will examine the meaning of the expression house of cards, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The literal meaning of the term a house of cards is a structure built out of stacked playing cards which stays erect due to balance and friction. No other means of support are used, such as tape, glue, paper clips, etc. The current record for the highest house of cards is over twenty-five feet. As one may imagine, a house of cards is an extremely precarious endeavor. The idiom house of cards came into use to mean a situation, plan or system that is unstable or unreliable, one that is flimsy and may collapse with the least provocation. The plural form of house of cards is houses of cards.


The four-page memo offered no smoking gun, no conclusive proof either way that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaigns and possible collusion with President Donald Trump’s campaign has been built on a house of cards, as Republicans argued going in. (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

It is time to move past a political culture that protects the party at all costs, built on a house of cards that cannot survive the truth of what it means to work in politics in Canada. (The Calgary Herald)

Want to know more idioms? Check out some others we covered:

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