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The meaning and origin of the expression: An accident waiting to happen

An accident waiting to happen

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'An accident waiting to happen'?

'An accident waiting to happen' is a person or thing likely to cause trouble or harm because of ongoing carelessness or neglect.

What's the origin of the phrase 'An accident waiting to happen'?

The phrase 'An accident waiting to happen' - meaning and origin.'An accident waiting to happen' seems as though it might be a quite recent coinage. I can't recall hearing it while I was growing up in England in the latter half of the 20th century.

In fact the expression dates from the first part of that century and was first used in the USA.

The first use of the phrase in print that I can find is from the Kansas newspaper The Lyons Daily News, October 1905:

We heard a man tell another the other day the he "Stood around like an accident waiting to happen". Haven't you ever heard of some simple little device and then wondered why you never thought of the same thing?

The nature of that snippet suggests that the phrase was being used colloquially in Kansas in 1905 but not much before that - the writer had clearly not heard it before.

See also:

Accident of birth

Accidentally on purpose

Accidents will happen

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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