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a broken reed
An unreliable or unsupportive person. I thought I could count on my best friend for support during this difficult time, but she proved to be a broken reed and never returned my calls.
a reed before the wind lives on(, while mighty oaks do fall)
proverb Those who remain flexible and adaptable will be able to survive change, hardship, or adversity more easily than those who try to challenge or stand against it. The CEO doesn't tolerate people who won't go along with his ideas or change to meet his demands. A reed before the wind lives on, at least when you're working at this company. Luckily, I had diversified a lot of my revenue streams before the economic crash hit, so I was able to change tack and withstand the blow better than the large companies that had no room to maneuver. A reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks to fall.
Some source of support that proves to be extremely limited, weak, or unreliable. For all his boastful talk, he ended up being little more than a slender reed when the situation became challenging. The idea that voters' opinions will shift enough between now and election day is but a slender reed of hope that her campaign is clinging to at the moment. It was on this slender reed of evidence that the prosecution built their entire case.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
an unreliable or undependable person. (On the image of a useless, broken reed in a reed instrument.) You can't rely on Jim's support. He's a broken reed. Mr. Smith is a broken reed. His deputy has to make all the decisions.
reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks do fall
Prov. An insignificant, flexible person is more likely not to get hurt in a crisis than a prominent or rigid person. Our office has new managers now; I plan to be as inconspicuous as possible while they reorganize everyone. A reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks do fall.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
A weak or unreliable support, as in I'd counted on her to help, but she turned out to be a broken reed. The idea behind this idiom, first recorded about 1593, was already present in a mid-15th-century translation of a Latin tract, "Trust not nor lean not upon a windy reed."
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
a broken reedBRITISH, LITERARY
If you call a person or group a broken reed, you mean that they are now weak and hopeless, and do not have the power or influence that they had in the past. They recognized that their allies were a broken reed.
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
a broken reeda weak or ineffectual person, especially one on whose support it is foolish to rely.
This expression refers to Isaiah 36:6, in which the Assyrian general taunts King Hezekiah of Jerusalem about the latter's supposed ally, the Egyptian pharaoh: ‘Lo, thou trusteth in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt’.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
slender reed, a
A weak and unreliable support. This metaphor dates from biblical times, appearing in both Old and New Testaments. In the former, in the books of Isaiah and 2 Kings, it was applied to Egypt, which was variously described as a “broken” or “bruised” reed, not to be trusted if the Assyrians made war on the Hebrews. The term persisted into the mid-twentieth century but is heard less often today.
See also: slender
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer