hot potato

a hot potato


  • any subject which several folks are talking about and which is frequently argued
  • something that is hard or terrible to handle
  • a ​problem or ​situation that is ​difficult to ​deal with and ​causes a lot of ​disagreement
  • an issue or question about which people have different opinions and feel very strongly
  • a controversial situation that is awkward to deal with
  • a delicate or contentious matter which many people do not want to talk about

Example Sentences

  1. The issue of gun control is a political hot potato in the United States.
  2. The legality of abortion is a hot potato in many countries around the world.
  3. I never discuss about anyone’s religion, it can be a hot potato.
  4. The party members are not speaking on this topic as it is a political hot potato.
  5. The government’s decision to curb benefits to some sections of society is like a hot potato.


The term originated in the mid 1800s and is derived from the slightly older term “to drop like a hot potato”, meaning “to abandon something or someone quickly”. It alludes to the fact that cooked potatoes retain considerable heat because they contain a lot of water.

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H 7 Comments


AuthorFiona Mackenzie writes on 18th December 2017

Hello Manal,
More formal ways of saying: It’s a hot potato, are:

  • It’s a controversial subject.
  • It’s a sensitive subject.
  • It’s likely to cause disagreement.
  • It could upset people.
  • It’s risky for everyone involved.

AuthorManal writes on 18th December 2017

Is there is any other idiom that is equal to the meaning of hot potato but formal?

AuthorCarson writes on 7th November 2017

This was very helpful for my project.

AuthorSwati writes on 25th September 2017

Hmm…. Ram Rahim topic is really like a hot potato in India.

AuthorChris writes on 24th September 2017

Could I say ” no way, I won’t talk to the boss about the pay rise; are you trying to pass me the hot potato?

AuthorKhushi writes on 20th September 2017

Grateful of you.

AuthorMercy writes on 19th September 2017

Hi this was really helpful.

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