Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia.
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.
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.
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.