loose cannon


General English

  • noun someone who is not easily controlled and may do or say things which are not officially approved


  • noun a dangerously uncontrolled ally or associate; a member of one’s team who is liable to run amok or cause havoc. This piece of political and journalistic jargon has become fashionable in the late 1980s. It continues the nautical image evoked by such vogue clichés as ‘take on board’. In this case the person in question is seen as an unsecured cannon careering unpredictably and dangerously across a deck with the pitching of a ship. The phrase was used of General Haig during the Nixon administration and of Colonel Oliver North under the Reagan administration.