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powder keg

a small, metal, barrellike container for gunpowder or blasting powder.
a potentially dangerous situation, especially one involving violent repercussions.
Origin of powder keg
1850-55 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for powder keg
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Stand back there or I'll drop a lighted match into a powder keg!

  • Without knowing, we are sitting on a powder keg in which the fuse may or may not be lighted.

    Cubs of the Wolf Raymond F. Jones
  • I was afraid I had said good-bye when you were left with that powder keg.

    Fire Island G. Manville Fenn
  • She did not try to carry the powder keg, but she took the powder in a girl's way.

  • She would have shuddered to see a man sit carelessly down upon a powder keg with a pipe in his mouth.

  • Billy rested his left hand on the head of a powder keg, which stood on end on the counter beside him.

    Billy Topsail & Company Norman Duncan
  • A powder keg was somewhere near, he recollected, and he beat out one little jet of flame with his hand, that smarted fiercely.

    Soldier Rigdale Beulah Marie Dix
British Dictionary definitions for powder keg

powder keg

a small barrel used to hold gunpowder
(informal) a potential source or scene of violence, disaster, etc
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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