stir up a hornet's nest

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stir up a hornet's nest

1. To create, provoke, or trigger a dangerous, troublesome, or complicated situation. The government's military interventions really just stirred up a hornet's nest in the region.
2. To provoke or instigate a lot of very angry or offended reactions. The politician's off-the-cuff remark about pollution stirred up a hornet's nest among environmentalists.
See also: nest, stir, up
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

stir up a hornet's nest

Fig. to create a lot of trouble. (Fig. on stir something up .) If you say that to her, you will be stirring up a hornet's nest. There is no need to stir up a hornet's nest.
See also: nest, stir, up
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

stir up a hornets' nest

Make trouble, cause a commotion, as in Asking for an audit of the treasurer's books stirred up a hornets' nest in the association. This metaphoric term, likening hornets to angry humans, dates from the first half of the 1700s.
See also: nest, stir, up
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.

stir up a hornet's nest

If you stir up a hornet's nest, you do something that makes a lot of people very upset and angry. He has been asking a lot of questions and stirring up a hornet's nest around town. I seem to have stirred up a hornet's nest with my article about the teaching of Shakespeare in schools. Note: Sometimes people just talk about a hornet's nest. It's not that companies are unaware of illegal software. It's more that they are scared of uncovering a hornet's nest — they would simply rather not know. Wasserman had no idea what a hornet's nest he was stepping into. Note: A hornet is a large wasp with a powerful sting.
See also: nest, stir, up
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

stir up a hornets' nest, to

To provoke a quarrel or foment trouble. The analogy appears in the Roman playwright Plautus’s Amphitruo (ca. 200 b.c.), in which Sosia tells Amphitryon not to get in trouble by quarreling with his wife. It is cited by Erasmus in his collection of adages and repeated by Rabelais in Pantagruel. In English it appears from the eighteenth century on and remains current.
See also: stir, to, up
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
The conceited Johnson stirred up a hornets' nest, with his contempt for a sovereign Parliament provoking a democratic reaction.
A CITY council manager has stirred up a hornets' nest in Newcastle with a question about its purpose that some will find threatening.
Denbighshire local health board and the Conwy and Denbighshire NHS Trust stirred up a hornets' nest with their plans to shake up health care provision in Prestatyn, with local residents demanding the present Chatsworth House hospital be retained
BRISTOL City's faint hopes of an end-of-season play-off place were finally wrecked after they'd stirred up a hornets' nest at Chesterfield.
He stirred up a hornets' nest in Minneapolis last spring when he wrote a newspaper column arguing against creation of a citizen review board for police.
THE Archbishop of Canterbury has stirred up a hornets' nest with his assertion that Britain must accept the introduction of some form of Islamic sharia law.
THE Archbishop of Canterbury has stirred up a hornets' nest with his assertion that the UK must accept the introduction of some form of Islamic sharia law.
But there can be no doubt that the overthrow of Saddam stirred up a hornets' nest.
Last year the Lambourn trainer stirred up a hornets' nest by claiming the use of blood drug EPO was rife in racing - something Pipe took as a thinly-veiled swipe at him.