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 Putin intended to expose the United States as a paper tiger outside Western Europe and to demonstrate that Russia, along with China, was destined for a leadership role in a new, multipolar international order. Liana Fix, Foreign Affairs, 20 Dec. 2022 The hollow threat by Trump, and his clownish statements about his love fest served, at best, to diminish the reputation of the U.S. around the world and, at worst, to signal that the U.S. was only a paper tiger, inviting North Korea’s further nuclear development. Marty Judge Community Voices Contributor, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7 Sep. 2020 The result is a contentious, stalled mess, and the ESA, which wields the legal force of a thousand-pound gorilla, is ecologically about as effective as a paper tiger. Keith Kloor, Discover Magazine, 26 Apr. 2011 The limited-edition ID.R Buggy built by Karmann turned out to be another paper tiger. Georg Kacher, Car and Driver, 10 Nov. 2022 Rather than accepting the consequences of divided government and negotiating, some Democrats preferred to fantasize over an idea that would expose the United States as politically dysfunctional and a financial paper tiger. Isaac Schorr, National Review, 28 Sep. 2020 The war also exposed Russia’s military as a paper tiger and led to unspeakable suffering in Ukraine and growing repression at home. Frida Ghitis, CNN, 6 Jan. 2023 But with Jon Huntsman, Chris Christie and now Mitt Romney all refusing to drink the GOP Kool-Aid on climate science, Morano is looking less like an enforcer and more like a paper tiger. Keith Kloor, Discover Magazine, 4 June 2011 That's a problem for a climate movement that looks good on the web but is a paper tiger in the real world. Keith Kloor, Discover Magazine, 24 July 2012 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'paper tiger.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1836, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of paper tiger was in 1836

Dictionary Entries Near paper tiger

Cite this Entry

“Paper tiger.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

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