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.
See also: can, of, Worms
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

*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!
See also: can, of, Worms
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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]
See also: can, of, Worms
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 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.
See also: can, of, Worms
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

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.
See also: can, of, Worms
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

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.
See also: can, of, Worms
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

can of worms

A complex or difficult problem.
See also: can, of, Worms
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

can of worms, it's a/like opening a

Introducing a complicated problem or unsolvable dilemma. The metaphor alludes to the live bait of fishermen. In a jar or other container, they form an inextricable tangle, wriggling and entwining themselves with one another. The term is American in origin, dating from the mid-twentieth century.
See also: can, like, of, opening
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
Opening Cans of Worms. A physician in a project that used physician's assistants as collaborators, expressed his feelings about older people and their complex problems.
Brenda Blethyn got an award at Cannes for her performance as Cynthia, the tearful, fearful middle-aged mother whose own best kept secret emerges to kick over the cans of worms that everybody has so far managed to keep the lids on.
Those questions, and many more like them, have opened thousands of cans of worms over the past decade, which is about when the concept of integrated supply began to gain notice.
Open Sore is a passionately written recent history of Nigeria, that "tightly sealed can within cans, within cans of worms" encasing the annulled 1993 presidential election of Basorun M.K.O.
If, after you have approved the design and hired a contractor, you start changing things, two cans of worms will be opened; the price can and the schedule can.
Is it because Katsina is the home state of President Muhammodu Buhari and a probe is likely to expose cans of worms?
"But, yeah, it definitely is exciting to see the [Season 1] finale and see how they kind of wrapped certain things up and then also opened new cans of worms to make a second season very exciting."
"Compadre, do you want more cans of worms aside from what we see on TV during the Senate hearings?" the businessman says.
Their Present Aid shop offers a range of presents for the world's deprived, from cans of worms (which help improve soil and the production of compost) to dental treatment and emergency care in a malnutrition ward.
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.