powder keg


Definition of powder keg

1 : a small usually metal cask for holding gunpowder or blasting powder
2 : something liable to explode

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of powder keg in a Sentence

Political instability has made the region a powder keg. the immigration bill has become a political powder keg for legislators on both sides of the aisle

Recent Examples on the Web

Its hurdle is to go beyond the political powder keg of the immigration debate and help crime victims in ways that local courts can’t, such as providing details about whether their assailants have been deported. Colleen Long, The Seattle Times, "Trump immigrant crime hotline still faces hurdles, pushback," 5 Feb. 2019 For a wild escape from Tokyo, take an hour-and-a-half flight north to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport, and then drive two hours west to the storied powder keg of Niseko United ski area. Jessica Flint, WSJ, "A Discerning Vacationer’s Guide to Escaping from Tokyo," 6 Dec. 2018 Salo Maldonado, a 36-year-old small-business owner in Rio de Janeiro, told Vox last week that the country’s deep divisions have turned this presidential race an unpredictable powder keg. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s Trumpian candidate, narrowly misses outright victory," 8 Oct. 2018 Though the powder keg image is powerful, in reality very few wars start this way. Dan Reiter, Washington Post, "Should you worry about a U.S. war with North Korea? Not really.," 11 Jan. 2018 The seriousness of this situation demands that immediate steps must be taken to solve this crucial problem, by those who have genuine concern before the racial powder keg explodes. Deneen L. Brown, Washington Post, "Martin Luther King Jr. met Malcolm X just once. The photo still haunts us with what was lost.," 14 Jan. 2018 But Russia's intervention turned Syria into a powder keg for world powers. Tamara Qiblawi And Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN, "Assad tells US to leave Syria," 31 May 2018 The place is a powder keg, the tense crossroads for Muslims, Christians and Jews in a time of intense sectarian conflict. Barbara Vandenburgh, azcentral, "Jon Hamm a dark force in dense geopolitical thriller 'Beirut'," 11 Apr. 2018 If the Cavaliers stumble, though, Love’s role and fit heading into free agency could easily wind up being the league’s biggest powder keg. Ben Golliver, SI.com, "The All-Bullseye Team: Five All-Stars Facing Serious Playoff Pressure," 4 Apr. 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of powder keg

1791, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about powder keg

Share powder keg

Statistics for powder keg

Last Updated

13 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for powder keg

The first known use of powder keg was in 1791

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for powder keg

powder keg


English Language Learners Definition of powder keg

: a small container that is used to hold gunpowder
: a place or situation that is likely to become dangerous or violent soon

More from Merriam-Webster on powder keg

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with powder keg

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for powder keg

Comments on powder keg

What made you want to look up powder keg? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a servile follower or underling

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!