Definition of have a tiger by the tail (also be riding a tiger) in US English:

have a tiger by the tail (also be riding a tiger)

phrase

  • Have embarked on a course of action which proves unexpectedly difficult but which cannot easily or safely be abandoned.

    • ‘On both occasions politicians, academics and bureaucrats found themselves riding a tiger of unanticipated national emotion.’
    • ‘Is it that the administration rides a tiger and is afraid to dismount?’
    • ‘They ride a tiger, and the retribution against them, were they to be overthrown, would be frightful.’
    • ‘If things work out and you become an institution, how long will it be before you're riding a tiger and can't get off?’
    • ‘Those seizing land from white farmers are riding a tiger they can't control.’
    • ‘But as I look back, you know, I had a tiger by the tail.’
    • ‘While he's been lucky so far, Howard has a tiger by the tail.’
    • ‘The Chinese are riding a tiger, and can't easily get off.’
    • ‘It is said that the trick to riding a tiger is finding a way to dismount.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, some of blogging's most influential promoters don't seem to fully understand that they have a tiger by the tail.’