sitting on a powder keg

sitting on a powder keg

Fig. in a risky or explosive situation; in a situation where something serious or dangerous may happen at any time. (A powder keg is a keg of gunpowder.) Things are very tense at work. The whole office is sitting on a powder keg. The fire at the oilfield seems to be under control for now, but all the workers there are sitting on a powder keg.
See also: keg, on, powder, sitting

sitting on a powder keg

In imminent danger, in an explosive situation, as in Our office is sitting on a powder keg while management decides whether or not to close us down . This metaphoric term alludes to sitting on a keg of gunpowder that could go off at any moment. [First half of 1900s]
See also: keg, on, powder, sitting

sitting on a powder keg

In imminent danger. This phrase that arose in the early 19th century (if not before) suggests being atop a barrel of gunpowder that could explode at any time.
See also: keg, on, powder, sitting
References in periodicals archive ?
Summary: One can easily come up with all of the standard descriptions for what Lebanon is experiencing today: a time bomb, on the brink, sitting on a powder keg, etc.
The solicitor acting for the families of the soldiers, John Mackenzie, [ok] told him: "You were sitting on a powder keg.
You were sitting on a powder keg," said the family's solicitor John Mackenzie.
Prison officers fear they are sitting on a powder keg of suspicion after stepping up their action in a meal breaks dispute.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has made recalls so wildly popular among Californians that Shelley is sitting on a powder keg, according to political analysts, strategists and pollsters.
BIRMINGHAM boss Trevor Francis is sitting on a powder keg.
This deal is likely to trigger an arms race in the region, which is already sitting on a powder keg.