powder keg


Definition of powder keg 

1 : a small usually metal cask for holding gunpowder or blasting powder

2 : something liable to explode

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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

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 Mutual threats and hostility — and boasts about button size! — create an extremely dangerous environment, a powder keg just waiting for a stray match to set it off. Dan Reiter, Washington Post, "Should you worry about a U.S. war with North Korea? Not really.," 11 Jan. 2018 The region has historically been a powder keg and seems on the verge of more upheavals. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "How Conflict in the Balkans Is Screwing Up Europe’s Clocks," 8 Mar. 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.

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First Known Use of powder keg

1791, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

20 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for powder keg

The first known use of powder keg was in 1791

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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

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by force of circumstances

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