play Russian roulette

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play Russian roulette

1. Literally, to participate in a potentially deadly game of chance involving a revolver loaded with a single bullet, in which a participant spins the cylinder so that the bullet's location is unknown, puts the barrel to their head, and pulls the trigger. A university student died while apparently playing Russian roulette with other members of his fraternity.
2. By extension, to commit or participate in any reckless, foolish, and/or dangerous act or stunt, especially that in which the risk of danger or trouble is increased with the number of times one repeats it. You're playing Russian roulette every single time you get behind the wheel of a car when you've been drinking.
See also: play, roulette, Russian
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

play Russian roulette

COMMON If someone plays Russian roulette, they take big risks by doing something that might cause great problems or danger. Many organisations are playing Russian roulette with their greatest assets — their staff and their reputation. We're playing Russian roulette with our health, eating this rubbish. Note: If someone plays Russian roulette, they fire a gun containing only one bullet at their head without knowing whether the bullet will be released or not.
See also: play, roulette, Russian
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

play ˌRussian rouˈlette

take dangerous risks: The airline was accused of playing Russian roulette with the lives of their passengers.
Russian roulette is a dangerous game in which a person shoots a gun at their own head. The gun only contains one bullet so the person does not know if it will fire or not.
See also: play, roulette, Russian
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

Russian roulette, to play

To engage in a potentially fatal undertaking. The term refers to a game popularized by Russian officers at the czar’s court in which each player in turn, using a revolver that contains just one bullet, spins the cylinder, aims at his own head, and pulls the trigger. With a six-chamber cylinder, there is one chance in six that he will kill himself. The term was transferred to other highly risky undertakings in the first half of the twentieth century. “Abusive parents are often the scarred survivors of generations of Russian roulette,” stated an article in the medical journal the Lancet (1976).
See also: play, Russian, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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