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A country that is not currently very powerful or influential but has the potential to be due to its size, population, resources, military, etc. It is still not a major economic player at the moment, but with its huge population and rapidly expanding technological infrastructure, many see it as something of a sleeping giant. I fear we may wake a sleeping giant if we initiate an attack against the country.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
a great power that is still and waiting. The huge country to the south is a sleeping giant, waiting for its chance to become sufficiently industrialized to have real prosperity. The U.S. was a sleeping giant at the outbreak of both world wars.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.