We have a Japanese idiom, “鬼に金棒- oni ni kanabo,” of which literal translation is “let an ogres get an iron club,” or an ogres carrying with an iron club.

For instance, the United States of America has (or had) been seen as an “oni ni kanabo” country that owns vast land, abundant natural resources, extraordinary wealth, plus the world’s strongest military power.

If China endowed with vast land and huge population gets much wealthier and strengthens military power, it will be oni ni kanabo – invincible country.

Is there English phrase(s) to mean the same effect – something that makes already strong one much stronger or invincible, or something that adds a telling strength to already strong one?


I’m looking for the saying to account for the strong gets absolutely strong, like Achilles gets iron tendons, not the average gets strong.

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  • FumbleFingers. I'm encouraged to find that I'm still on your warm watch. – Yoichi Oishi Sep 18 '13 at 2:56
  • Does the oni 鬼 in the phrase mean it has a negative connotation? I.e. it is used on ones rivals/enemies? – congusbongus Sep 18 '13 at 6:43
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    @congusbongus.鬼 is an imaginary, ferocious being, like a demon. Usually it has negative implications like 鬼婆- Oni babaa meaning an evil old woman. But 鬼is often used to describe a genius, or the person who is whole-heartedly devoted to business, art, academic studies, sports, and games (such as Shogi - Japanese chess and Go). They are called 'Shigoto no Oni' – Oni of business, 'Geijutu no Oni' – Oni of fine art, 'Gakumonn no Oni' - Oni of scientific study, 'Oni of Jujutsu,' and 'Oni.of Shogi.' We call someone who is devoted to his work 'Shigoto no Oni'- Oni of business. – Yoichi Oishi Sep 18 '13 at 10:07
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    Hercules unchained? – rhetorician Sep 18 '13 at 17:22

go from strength to strength meaning progress from one success to another higher level of success, or continuing to grow stronger.


eg. With the ongoing military modernization, China is now seen as moving from strength to strength.

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  • I buy this answer for its authenticity of the source - the Bible, Psalms 84:7: and the plain reference to the strength. – Yoichi Oishi Sep 18 '13 at 21:14

I think one of the most common phrases you would hear to describe this in American English is the rich getting richer. You can apply it to your example and it has wide usage.

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Since the question says phrase, from Austin Powers: "sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads". Something already strong and feared topped off with something stronger.

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There is a Chinese idiom literally translated as adding wings to a tiger (如虎添翼), which also means exactly the same thing as 鬼に金棒.

This may be a good phrase to use in English because people unfamiliar with the idiom are still able to guess exactly what it means, whereas the literal translation of 鬼に金棒 may not be so obvious in its meaning. For example, see its use in this article: Like Adding Wings to the Tiger: Chinese Information War Theory and Practice

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  • Yes. This (adding wings to a tiger) should be more understandable to westerners who are not familiar with the oriental concept of 鬼- Oni than '鬼に金棒- Ogre armed with an iron club’. – Yoichi Oishi Sep 19 '13 at 5:53

One relatively recent slang usage in this general area (which admittedly isn't exclusively applied to things that are already strong) is...

a bear / elephant / bull / etc. on steroids. (on steroids = in a much more powerful or extreme form)

For OP's exact context, a few people have actually written China could be like Japan on steroids.

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reinforce [ˌriːɪnˈfɔːs] vb (tr)

  1. to give added strength or support to
  2. to give added emphasis to; stress, support, or increase his rudeness reinforced my determination
  3. (Military) to give added support to (a military force) by providing more men, supplies, etc.
  4. (Psychology) Psychol to reward an action or response of (a human or animal) so that it becomes more likely to occur again

[from obsolete renforce, from French renforcer; see re- + inforce enforce]

fortify [ˈfɔːtɪˌfaɪ] vb -fies, -fying, -fied (mainly tr)

  1. (Military / Fortifications) (also intr) to make (a place) defensible, as by building walls, digging trenches, etc.
  2. to strengthen physically, mentally, or morally
  3. to strengthen, support, or reinforce (a garment, structure, etc.)
  4. (Miscellaneous Technologies / Brewing) to add spirits or alcohol to (wine), in order to produce sherry, port, etc.
  5. (Cookery) to increase the nutritious value of (a food), as by adding vitamins and minerals
  6. to support or confirm to fortify an argument with facts

[from Old French fortifier, from Late Latin fortificāre, from Latin fortis strong + facere to make]

bolster [ˈbəʊlstə]

vb (tr)

  1. (often foll by up) to support or reinforce; strengthen to bolster morale
  2. to prop up with a pillow or cushion
  3. to add padding to to bolster a dress


  1. (Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Furniture) a long narrow pillow or cushion
  2. any pad or padded support
  3. (Miscellaneous Technologies / Building) Architect a short horizontal length of timber fixed to the top of a post to increase the bearing area and reduce the span of the supported beam
  4. (Engineering / Tools) a cold chisel having a broad blade splayed towards the cutting edge, used for cutting stone slabs, etc

[Old English bolster; related to Old Norse bolstr, Old High German bolstar, Dutch bulster]


  • The general is awaiting arrival of materiel and personnel reinforcements to their already large encampment before attempting any engagement with their formidable enemy.

  • I prefer buying evaporated milk powder to fresh milk, because they are fortified with vitamins and minerals essential to bolstering bone growth.

  • We need to reinforce the attitudes towards discipline to maintain our status as being the most disciplined team on the street.

  • I don't see the reason of reinforcing our border with Canada any further. It will only bolster the understanding among Americans that our govt is spendthrift. What could Canadians do to us? Eat us?

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