paper tiger

noun

Definition of paper tiger 

: one that is outwardly powerful or dangerous but inwardly weak or ineffectual

Examples of paper tiger in a Sentence

The new laws are just paper tigers without any method of enforcement.

Recent Examples on the Web

Colon merely has created a simplistic, and thus impotent, paper tiger here; the political and pedagogical force of her work would be far greater if her villain had at least a touch of complexity. Chris Jones, chicagotribune.com, "'Tilikum' tells dark story of a captive orca at SeaWorld," 29 June 2018 That sends an important message to Moscow, who have for years discounted the US as a paper tiger. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, "What do the US, UK and French airstrikes mean for Syria's war?," 15 Apr. 2018 Like Barack Obama and others before him, Trump is revealed as a paper tiger on trade, consigned to tough talk without a plan for action. David Dayen, The New Republic, "Trump’s Theater of Trade," 27 Mar. 2018 The West, including Britain, has a sorry recent history of behaving like a paper tiger when confronted with Russian aggression, as Crimea and Ukraine show. The Economist, "Britain holds Russia to account over the Skripal affair," 15 Mar. 2018 What’s more, Trump has already revealed himself to be a paper tiger. Tina Nguyen, The Hive, "Republicans Just Destroyed the Last Great Myth About Donald Trump," 31 Mar. 2017 But because ambition is so overwhelming — because self-interest is so powerful — these paper tigers were allowed to prey on women year after year. David French, National Review, "Harvey Weinstein, Fox News, and the Power of Self-Interest," 8 Oct. 2017 But the largest score would be to invade, most likely by proxy, Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania, thereby exposing NATO as a paper tiger, unable or unwilling to mount a military response. Leon Aron, WSJ, "Putin’s Goal: Revenge and Restoration," 8 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'paper tiger.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of paper tiger

1836, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of paper tiger was in 1836

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More Definitions for paper tiger

paper tiger

noun

English Language Learners Definition of paper tiger

: someone or something that appears powerful or dangerous but is not

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