trial balloon

noun
a statement, program, or the like issued publicly as a means of determining reactions in advance: The speech was a trial balloon for a new law.

Origin:
1930–35

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World English Dictionary
trial balloon
 
n
Compare ballon d'essai a tentative action or statement designed to test public opinion on a controversial matter

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

trial balloon definition


A small campaign or test designed to gauge public response. The term originally referred to a balloon sent up to determine weather conditions: “The speech on free trade that the candidate delivered last month must have been a trial balloon; the audience reacted with hostility, and he has not mentioned the subject since.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

trial balloon

An idea or plan advanced tentatively to test public reaction, as in Let's send up a trial balloon for this new program before we commit ourselves. This expression alludes to sending up balloons to test weather conditions. [c. 1930]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Sprung says the proposal on corporate taxes is a trial balloon.
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