Burst Into Flames Meaning
Definition: To suddenly be on fire; to catch fire quickly.
People use both burst into flame and burst into flames. Currently, burst into flames is a little more common.
Origin of Burst Into Flames
This expression was in use by the mid-1700s. It likely developed from the phrasal verb burst into, which means to start suddenly.
The other part of the expression, flame, comes (through Anglo-Norman and Old French), from the Latin word flamma and means fire. The author John Milton used a similar expression in Lycidas in the year 1637: burst out into sudden blaze.
Examples of Burst Into Flames
In this dialogue, one employee is explaining to another about her dangerous car ride to work.
Deanna: I can’t believe I actually made it to work today.
Emily: Why? What happened?
Deanna: Well, I was just driving into work like normal. Then, all of a sudden, my car engine just burst into flames!
Emily: Oh no! What did you do?
Deanna: I jumped out of the car and called for help! My car is destroyed.
In the second example, one friend warns another to be careful while smoking.
Billy: Hey! Be careful with that cigarette. You can’t just throw it on the ground when you’re finished with it.
Angie: Why? What’s wrong? I’m sorry you don’t like littering.
Billy: Actually, I don’t like littering, but that’s not why I want you to be careful. It’s really dry out here, and there are a lot of dead leaves. Your cigarette could start a small fire. Before you know it, this whole field could burst into flames!
Angie: I don’t think that will really happen. Still, I’ll try to be more careful.
Billy: Okay. Thank you!
The first excerpt explains how firefighters light small fires to stop larger ones.
- Crews have been setting backburns to slow the fire’s progress, using pingpong balls filled with flammable chemicals that are shot from a helicopter and burst into flame when they hit the ground, lighting small fuels, such as pine needles, on fire, Haberstick said. –Denver Post
In the second excerpt, a space shuttle lit on fire when returning to the earth.
- Exterior pieces of the capsule’s had broken off during reentry and burst into flame. A defective warning light caused much of the panic, but during those four tense minutes, it was feared that Mr. Glenn had been lost — along with the promise of the space program. –Washington Post
The phrase burst into flames is another way to say that something lights on fire rapidly.