Origin of loose cannon
Words nearby loose cannon
What does loose cannon mean?
A loose cannon is someone who behaves unpredictably and recklessly, often in a way that puts others at risk or negatively affects what they’re trying to do.
People considered loose cannons can’t be trusted because there’s no telling what they’re going to say or do. Loose cannons are thought to be uncontrollable. The metaphor is based on the image of a cannon on a ship that comes loose (such as during a storm) and starts dangerously sliding around and slamming into the people on board and the parts of the ship, causing injuries and damage.
Example: I need everyone on my team to be on the same page and to work together—I don’t want any loose cannons causing chaos.
Where does loose cannon come from?
he first records of the phrase loose cannon come from before the 1900s. The metaphor dates back to the time when wooden warships used to carry cannons, which were tied down to prevent them from shifting around as the ship moved. These cannons were big and heavy, and one coming loose would be very dangerous (mostly due to smashing into people and things, as opposed to exploding).
The phrase loose cannon is usually applied to the person in a group or on a team who’s unpredictable and whose unpredictability is likely to cause some kind of damage. Their recklessness may make it difficult for the team to accomplish its task, or it may derail the effort altogether. This recklessness can come in the form of erratic behavior, or it may come in the form of the incendiary things the loose cannon says.
The figurative sense of time bomb can refer to a person who’s likely to “explode” and cause some kind of chaos or damage. However, it’s most commonly used to refer to situations, as opposed to people. The figurative sense of powder keg is similar, but it always refers to potentially explosive situations.
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How is loose cannon used in real life?
Calling someone a loose cannon is almost always intended as a criticism.
Sammy is a liability to his party we’ve all known that for a long time. But to be a liability to public health messaging is just too much. Why do they continually allow him to be such a loose cannon?
— ACullen (@cullen_annette) September 14, 2020
The old-fashioned number 10 was in so many cases a loose cannon off the field, enjoying a playboy lifestyle and an attitude to training that wouldn’t be tolerated in today’s sports science culture. pic.twitter.com/vQviD2ubDN
— Prashanth Nair (@reddevil07nair) July 29, 2020
Drafting in a 14-team keeper league with friends every year reminds me that I'm so much more comfortable drafting with industry "experts."
Loose cannons blow up drafts because you can't plan.
— Joe Dolan (@FG_Dolan) September 6, 2020
Try using loose cannon!
Which of the following words does NOT describe someone who’s considered a loose cannon?
How to use loose cannon in a sentence
Oh, and the company had a loose cannon liability in the driver’s seat in Elon Musk.
We tend to overestimate how much a politician like that can drag down their national party, but Greene’s lack of remorse and candor reinforces how much of a loose cannon she could be moving forward.The GOP’s Marjorie Taylor Greene problem is spinning out of control|Aaron Blake|January 27, 2021|Washington Post
As of Thursday night, the brothers remained on the loose, last seen in northern France.U.S. Spies See Al Qaeda Fingerprints on Paris Massacre|Shane Harris, Nancy A. Youssef|January 8, 2015|DAILY BEAST
Has L.A. figured out how to stop the epidemic it set loose on the world?The Daily Beast’s Best Longreads, Dec 29-Jan 4, 2014|William Boot|January 4, 2015|DAILY BEAST
The lack of a cannon is a particular problem, as the F-35 is being counted on to help out infantrymen under fire.New U.S. Stealth Jet Can’t Fire Its Gun Until 2019|Dave Majumdar|December 31, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Biden is, of course, famous for being a bit loose in his public remarks.
He was pinned to the cement for his refusal to go along with an arrest for selling loose cigarettes.The Wildly Peaceful, Human, Almost Boring, Ultimately Great New York City Protests for Eric Garner|Mike Barnicle|December 8, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Sol laughed out of his whiskers, with a big, loose-rolling sound, and sat on the porch without waiting to be asked.The Bondboy|George W. (George Washington) Ogden
She was holding the back of her chair with one hand; her loose sleeve had slipped almost to the shoulder of her uplifted arm.The Awakening and Selected Short Stories|Kate Chopin
Many of their cannon balls that fell far short of us, were collected and returned to them with powerful effect.
"I call you," the policeman said, and stripping the saddle and bridle from his sweaty horse, turned him loose to graze.Raw Gold|Bertrand W. Sinclair
For good or ill, the torrent of rebellion was suffered to break loose, and it soon engulfed a continent.The Red Year|Louis Tracy
British Dictionary definitions for loose cannon
Other Idioms and Phrases with loose cannon
One who is uncontrolled and therefore a serious and unpredictable danger. For example, We can't trust her to talk to the press—she's a loose cannon. This metaphoric expression alludes to cannon mounted on the deck of a sailing ship, which if dislodged during combat or a storm could cause serious damage to both vessel and crew by sliding about. Its figurative use dates from the first half of the 1900s.