paper tiger

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Translating Mandarin 纸老虎 (simplified) / 紙老虎 (traditional) / zhǐ lǎohǔ (pinyin)


paper tiger ‎(plural paper tigers)

  1. (idiomatic) A seemingly fierce or powerful person, country or organisation without the ability to back up their words; apparently powerful but actually ineffective.
    • 2008, Ian Kershaw, "The twisted road to war", The Guardian, 23 Aug 2008:
      The League of Nations was by this time scarcely even a paper tiger, devoid of credibility since its divisions and pusillanimity had been so clearly laid bare following Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia in the autumn of 1935.


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