The Cambridge Online Dictionary defines "cannon fodder" as:

If you describe soldiers as cannon fodder, you mean that they are not considered important by their officers and are sent into war without their leaders worrying if they die.

On fantasy novels I have found the word "fodder" used with the meaning of "cannon fodder". Is this use of "fodder" allowed on other contexts, like a magazine article about Word War II? There are no cannons on the fantasy world, so would make no sense the use of "cannon fodder" by the characters.

A few examples from R.A Salvatore:


"Your flanks will be secure," he promised his king. "And any fodder prodded before Grguch's clan will be swept clean before they reach the hill. Clan Karuck alone will press the center."


"Well met, Torgar," Bruenor replied, offering a gracious bow of his own, something that he, as head of a nearby kingdom, was certainly not required to do. "Yer guards her serve ye well at blocking the way an better than fodder!"


Tens of thousands of goodly folk would have died in that war, but the kingdoms of the Silver Marches would not have fallen. This time, it would seem that Gruumsh demanded more of his fodder minions.

  • All three of those uses of Salvatore's have essentially the same meaning as "cannon fodder", except the instrument of death isn't a cannon. However, there is another use of "fodder" which meant "food" or "feed" (the noun, as in "animal feed"). One could say, "These crusts are no good for people, but they'll be fodder for the pigs." Similar figurative senses exist for both meanings, e.g. "What a scandal! That will be fodder for the newspapers tomorrow!" – Luke Sawczak Jul 14 '17 at 23:10
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    Two things. 1.) You ask if this use is "allowed", and I don't understand your meaning. Allowed by whom? Who would allow or forbid it? In your own language, are some nouns forbidden and others allowed? Are there writing police? 2.) Are there really no writers in your own language who use imagery? English is exactly the same as your own language. Once you grasp this, your progress in English will grow exponentially. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Jul 15 '17 at 0:00
  • Gunpowder is known in the Forgotten Realms setting that Salvatore's novels are set in. It is known there as 'smoke powder' and its use started with the priests of Gond. Weapons such as bombards and ribalds types of cannon are used in Faerum. – Sarriesfan Jul 15 '17 at 8:09
  • Slight correction 'Smokepowder' is a magical equivalent to gunpowder, that existed in the Realms in the period the the novels were written. – Sarriesfan Jul 15 '17 at 8:16
  • Should we consider cannon fodder a kenning? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 15 '17 at 13:00

Yes, "cannon fodder" is an idiom that can be used even when the combatants are not using cannons ... but it would sound kind of silly in a novel set before cannons were even invented. Or, as you point out, in a fantasy world without gunpowder.

I'm not a fan of Salvatore -- but he's sold a lot of books, so who am I to judge.

Although, as Luke Sawczak points out in his comment, "fodder" actually means "food for animals". It's not wrong if Salvatore wants to use part of the relatively modern expression, because his readers will understand that by "fodder" he means "cheap soldiers to be thrown away". It's just annoying.

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    In russia we have an equivalent "пушечное мясо" which refers to the first line of attack, the worst soldiers to be thrown away. It can be used only as an idiom no matter the time, place, or existence of gunpowder, only context matters. I think in English it's not wise to separate fodder from cannon fodder and use it standalone in a similar context. – SovereignSun Jul 15 '17 at 11:50

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