can of worms

can of worms

noun
Informal. a source of many unpredictable or unexpected problems: Buying a company we know nothing about would be opening up a whole new can of worms.

Origin:
1965–70

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Slang Dictionary

can of worms definition


  1. n.
    an intertwined set of problems; an array of difficulties. (Often with open.) : When you brought that up, you opened a whole new can of worms.
Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Richard A. Spears.Fourth Edition.
Copyright 2007. Published by McGraw-Hill Education.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

can of worms

A complex unexpected problem or unsolvable dilemma, as in Tackling the budget cuts is sure to open a can of worms. This expression alludes to a container of bait used for fishing, which when opened reveals an inextricable tangle of worms. [1920s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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