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paper tiger

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noun
  1. a person, group, nation, or thing that has the appearance of strength or power but is actually weak or ineffectual.
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Origin of paper tiger

First recorded in 1945–50
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for paper tiger

paper tiger

noun
  1. a nation, institution, etc, that appears powerful but is in fact weak or insignificant
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Word Origin

C20: translation of a Chinese phrase first applied to the US
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012