paper-tiger

paper tiger

noun
a person, group, nation, or thing that has the appearance of strength or power but is actually weak or ineffectual.

Origin:
1945–50

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
paper tiger
 
n
a nation, institution, etc, that appears powerful but is in fact weak or insignificant
 
[C20: translation of a Chinese phrase first applied to the US]

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