Word of the Day

Pandora’s box

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something that could cause a lot of problems if you do it, use it, or say it

Origin and usage

Pandora’s box comes from the ancient Greek story about a character named Pandora, who was given a box as a wedding gift but was ordered not to open it. Eventually, curiosity overcame her and she opened the box, releasing death, evil, and misery into the world. The term Pandora’s box was first used in English to refer to something that could cause many problems sometime around 1570.


The term Pandora’s box typically refers to something that is best left alone because it could cause problems if it is used, said, or done.

The story of Pandora’s box is a legend used by ancient Greeks to explain not only human weakness, but also how pain and suffering were first inflicted on the human race.

According to legend, Pandora was the first human woman on Earth. She was given many gifts, including beauty, curiosity, wit, intelligence, and strength – in fact, the name ‘Pandora’ in Greek means ‘one who bears all gifts’.

Pandora was also given another very special gift: a box. She was told that the box contained even more offerings but that she must never, ever open it.

Her curiosity eventually got the better of her, however, and Pandora opened the box. When she did, she quickly realized it contained illness, hardship, trouble and pain – not the beautiful gifts she had expected! Pandora tried to close the box and stop the suffering from going out into the world, but it was too late. She shut the lid on the box, trapping Hope inside.

The story of Pandora’s box has fascinated people for centuries and has inspired countless paintings, sculptures, and other works of art.

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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