10 Phrases Similar to Cannon Fodder

Cannon fodder is a colloquial and derogatory phrase for soldiers who are treated or considered by government or military authority as expendable on the battlefield or war front.

Cannon fodder is also a term used to describe someone at the forefront or the receiving end of backlash, criticism, complaint, objection, outcry, protest, and violence.

Cannon fodder does not only describe soldiers but also journalists, and reporters, who are deployed or posted to war zones to investigate, collect data, film, and report news about the battle.

In literature, Cannon fodder is a side character in a story, who is disposable, only used to extend the storyline. They are usually insignificant and easily forgotten once the character dies.

  • Some workers are treated like cannon fodder and their wages do not mirror the work they do.
  • The soldiers are all cannon fodder for this ongoing political banter.

10 phrases similar to cannon fodder

Forlorn hope

Phrases Similar to Cannon Fodder

Forlorn hope is a small group or band of soldiers selected to make a first attack or to be at the forefront of a military operation.

They are the first set of soldiers who are tasked with breaking down a barrier or breaking through a defended position of the enemy.

These combatants are regarded as expendables or as a means to an end in winning the war and saving a retreating army. They are either volunteers or are serving punishment or are promised rewards if they survive.

Forlorn hope is perfectly similar to cannon fodder because they were originally used to describe soldiers who are treated like expendable or bait on the battlefield or war front.

How to use this phrase in a sentence:

  • As the soldiers that served as forlorn hope advanced to the enemy’s territory, nobody knew what to expect.

Food for powder

The phrase food for powder refers to soldiers, particularly the low-ranking recruits/trainees, privates, regarded as expendable in war.

Food for powder is used mainly to describe expendable soldiers but can also be used to describe anyone in any field of work that is regarded and treated as less than important.

It is a phrase that is similar to cannon fodder because it is derogatory and disregards the input and importance of someone to the success of a task due to their seemingly little contribution.

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How to use this phrase in a sentence:

  • The recruits are always regarded as food for powder and they in turn treat another new set of recruits as such, and the cycle continues.

A cog in a machine

A cog in a machine is an idiom that describes a member of any large organization whose job, although vital, makes them feel as if they are not important.

It also describes someone whose role seems insignificant compared to the other employees of the organization. They are usually unacknowledged and unappreciated and hardly promoted or rewarded.

Just like a cog in a machine/ wheel is one of the teeth on a wheel that engages other teeth thereby causing motion to occur, the absence of such employees will be felt.

How to use this phrase in a sentence:

  • My input is not appreciated therefore I have extended my leave for 2 weeks. I’m tired of being regarded as a cog in a machine.

Past your sell-by date

To be past your sell-by date is an idiom used to describe someone who is old. If a person is past their sell-by date, that person is not wanted or regarded as useful anymore because they are too old.

To be past your sell-by date means that you are no longer effective, useful, or valuable. It also applies to everything ranging from food, medicine, objects, and everything that has an expiry date.

Past your sell-by date is similar to cannon fodder in the sense that people who are old or old-fashioned items are not regarded as valuable and treated as such.

How to use this phrase in a sentence:

  • The wisdom, insight, and mentorship capacity of the aged are not appreciated. They are treated like they are past their sell-by date.


Expendable is a phrase similar to cannon fodder used to describe something or someone that is of little significance and therefore replaceable.

Such an item is usually designed for a single use hence it is not worth preserving, maintaining, or saving.

A person who is deemed to be expendable is seen as not essential or mandatory to achieve a goal. Their part in achieving a goal is not regarded. Such persons are the first to be let go of during downsizing.

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How to use this phrase in a sentence:

  • With the impact of fuel subsidy removal on the economy, part-time workers are expendable.


A pawn is a person who does not have any authority or real power. They are usually used by others to achieve a goal, complete a project or execute an assignment.

A pawn is someone who is being manipulated or exploited. They are never appreciated or rewarded. Most times they are an integral part of a job or game.

In a toxic relationship, a pawn is a victim who believes or is made to believe that whatever they get is what they deserve. This results from a serious case of low self-esteem and an inferiority complex.

How to use this phrase in a sentence:

  • Six years of relationship, only to realize that I’m just a pawn in his game.
  • She found out today that she was only employed because of her relationship with the landlady. She was just a pawn all along.

Waste of space

Waste of space is a phrase used to refer to someone or a thing as useless, unproductive, and ineffective. It is a very demeaning phrase especially when someone hasn’t been given the benefit of the doubt.

Waste of space is usually used for someone or something that was expected to be helpful but ended up being worthless or disappointing.

Waste of space is like cannon fodder because the former can also be used to describe something or someone who seems inefficient because their role in an organization or during a project is small and almost insignificant.

How to use this phrase in a sentence:

  • After going through his remarkable CV, he was employed but he has been a waste of space ever since. Makes one wonder if he lied about his qualifications.


When you describe someone as a cypher, you mean that they have no real power and are often used by other people to achieve a purpose.

A cypher is a person or group of people who do not have any authority but are used by others as instruments for their objectives.

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On their own, these cyphers usually don’t have any importance. Their value comes from another person’s needs and demands.

You can use a cypher to describe someone who is treated poorly.

How to use this phrase in a sentence:

  • Josh was always treated like a cypher, because of his position in the company.


Phrases Similar to Cannon Fodder

To make a scapegoat of someone is to unfairly blame or punish someone for the errors or failures of others. Such a person is either not at fault but wrongly blamed, or partially at fault along with others but is made to take the fall.

A scapegoat is a person or group of people who are singled out for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or flaws of others. Being made a scapegoat is a hard thing to bear.

A scapegoat is similar to cannon fodder because a scapegoat also describes someone at the receiving end of punishment, outrage, criticism, complaint, disapproval, uproar, protest, and violence.

How to use this phrase in a sentence:

  • Because of his first mistake in that organization, he was subsequently used as a scapegoat for every other mistake or blunder.

Means to an end

The phrase a means to an end is used to describe a thing that is not valued or important in itself but is useful in achieving an aim. It is a procedure by which a goal is accomplished.

A person can be a means to an end when someone else is using them as an expedient instrument to get what they want. Such a person is only important for as long as they are useful to achieve that goal.

How to use this phrase in a sentence:

  • He is not my type but I don’t like being alone. Before I meet someone who is my spec, he will be a temporary means to an end.

In conclusion, cannon fodder is an informal and derogatory term that should not be used to describe someone. Also, a person should not be treated as cannon fodder.

Cannon fodder is also an idiom. It describes how unfairly and unjustly someone is being treated.

  • Celebrities have gradually become cannon fodder for the tabloids.

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