Sitting on a powder keg

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Sitting on a powder keg is an idiom. We will examine the meaning of the idiom sitting on a powder keg, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

The expression sitting on a powder keg means that one is in a situation that may explode into violence, that one is in a dangerous situation that may deteriorate into chaos at any minute. Usually, someone is said to be sitting on a powder keg when he is a leader who is expected to quell problems. The word powder keg may also be used as an idiom to mean a place or situation that is likely to explode into chaos and violence. The literal definition of powder keg is a wooden cask that contains gunpowder. The phrase sitting on a powder keg came into use in the 1900s.


If they don’t have a way to monitor that carefully, they could be sitting on a powder keg of liability and backlash. (Forbes Magazine)

The GM, who was being patient, but was also sitting on a powder keg (matter relating to the past events), between the two, suddenly went into a frenzy of anger -akin to a volcanic eruption- he shouted remarks, which fell only a short meter away from the skirting of decent language. (The International News)

Alongside this, unemployment has risen to almost 30 percent (there are now 10 million people unemployed), and we are sitting on a powder-keg of unemployed youth with little or no future. (The Independent)

Military Intelligence has long warned that Gaza — with its rampant unemployment and deteriorating living conditions — is a powder keg which Israel must address before it collapses completely (and did so again last month in its annual assessment). (The Times of Israel)