can of worms

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can of worms

A situation that, once started, is likely to become problematic or have a negative outcome. Getting involved in the minor border conflict has become a can of worms for the country, with no end to the military engagement in sight. You can try reformatting your computer, but once you open that can of worms, you'll probably be working on it for days.
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*can of worms

Fig. a very difficult issue or set of problems; an array of difficulties. (*Typically: be ~; Open ~.) This political scandal is a real can of worms. Let's not open that can of worms!
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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]
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a can of worms

COMMON A can of worms is a situation or subject that is very complicated, difficult or unpleasant to deal with or discuss. Now we have uncovered a can of worms in which there has not only been shameful abuse of power, but a failure of moral authority of the worst kind. Note: You can also use the expression to open a can of worms, meaning to start dealing with or discussing something so complicated, difficult or unpleasant that it would be better not to deal with or discuss it at all. Whenever a company connects its network to the Internet, it opens a can of worms in security terms. Many people worry that by uncovering the cause of their unhappiness they might be opening a can of worms that they can't then deal with.
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a can of ˈworms

(informal) if you open up a can of worms, you start doing something that will cause a lot of problems and be very difficult: I think if we start asking questions we’ll open up a whole new can of worms. Perhaps we should just accept the situation.
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can of worms

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.
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can of worms

A complex or difficult problem.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Each theme has four subthemes: pushing the comfort zone includes activities physicians engage in prior to collaboration--selecting elderly patients, "opening cans of worms," recognizing patient and family expectations, and going outside the comfort zone.
Cans of worms, seas of troubles, and Pandora's boxes brought physicians face to face with patient and family expectations.
These are not immediately life-threatening situations, but are viewed metaphorically as cans of worms, seas of troubles, and nebulous issues that can overwhelm physicians and staff as they seek to balance time constraints with patient care.
The Sports Guy opens up the mailbag not to mention a few cans of worms.
Especially journalists and commentators, who are busy turning a possibly quite proper old bird into yet another agent of evil, and opening all kinds of cans of worms to feed it on.
So far we've raised enough money for a whole flock of goats for a family in Africa, and we're hoping for a few cans of worms too.
There's the threat that two extremely big cans of worms are about to opened.
JUNE: I used to advertise cans of beer, not cans of worms - Miss G Paton, Edinburgh.
As far as I was concerned the matter was done and dusted last weekend, but people are opening new cans of worms day after day.