can of worms


Informal. a source of many unpredictable or unexpected problems: Buying a company we know nothing about would be opening up a whole new can of worms.

Nearby words

  1. camwood,
  2. caméra stylo,
  3. can,
  4. can buoy,
  5. can do with,
  6. can opener,
  7. can tho,
  8. can't,
  9. can't abide,
  10. can't but

Origin of can of worms

First recorded in 1965–70 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Idioms and Phrases with can of worms

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]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.