Definition of sorcerer's apprentice in US English:

sorcerer's apprentice


  • A person who instigates a process or project which they are then unable to control.

    • ‘We feel like the sorcerer's apprentice, admitted into the laboratory where miracles are made.’
    • ‘You set it into motion, it's like a sorcerer's apprentice, it does whatever it wants to do.’
    • ‘He then directed his squad of sorcerer's apprentices in Santa Monica to build scores of models that interpreted and expanded on his sketches.’
    • ‘Karl Marx once compared capitalism to the sorcerer's apprentice, who unleashed amazing powers outside his control.’
    • ‘Now the liberals found themselves in the position of the sorcerer's apprentice, unable to control the forces they had unleashed to make their lives easier.’


Translating French l'apprenti sorcier, the title of a tone poem (1897) by the French composer and scholar Paul Dukas (1865–1935), suggested by German der Zauberlehrling (1797), a poem by Goethe.