What Does Blown Out of Proportion Mean?

Blown Out of Proportion Meaning

Definition: To have a reaction that is too large for the situation.

A similar expression is to make a mountain out of a molehill or simply overreacting.

Origin of Blown Out of Proportion

This expression has a negative connotation and means that a person is treating a problem more seriously than the context merits.

The exact origin of this expression is unclear. However, digital records show that it appeared around the mid-1900s.

The meaning is somewhat decipherable from the definitions of the individual words. Proportion means relative size. Therefore, out of proportion means that the size of something is not relative to the rest of it.

To help you remember this expression, imagine that you must represent all of your problems with a balloon. Small problems are represented with a small balloon and big problems with a big balloon. Now imagine that you took a small problem and blew it up to the same size as a big balloon. You have blown your problem out of proportion.

Examples of Blown Out of Proportion

blow out of proportion

This example shows two co-workers who are discussing a pen that one of them lost.

Regina: Ginny, did you take my red pen?

Ginny: No, but I have one here that you can borrow.

Regina: No, I don’t want to borrow your pen. I want our co-workers to stop stealing my pens! I can’t believe this has happened again. I’m going to go complain to HR. I’m going to set up a secret camera and catch this pen thief. ARRRRGH!

Ginny: Whoa! Calm down. It’s just a pen. It’s not that important. Don’t you think you’re blowing this out of proportion? Anyway, isn’t that your red pen under your desk?

Regina: Oops. You’re right. My mistake. I’ll try to be more rational about this in the future.

More Examples

blow it out of proportion

This excerpt is about a major pharmacy’s blog post on medical marijuana.

  • “I don’t want to blow it out of proportion, but in the larger scheme of things, the fact that they allowed it to be published means something,” said Brochstein, of Houston, who wrote about the blog post on New Cannabis Ventures, a cannabis industry website. –Chicago Tribune

This excerpt is from an article about a heat wave that caused the deaths of around 500 people, and the mayor who didn’t take it seriously.

  • Unaware of the disaster unfolding all around him, Mayor Richard M. Daley that Friday shrugged off the high temperatures as just another summer scorcher: “We all have our little problems, but let’s not blow it out of proportion. It’s hot.” –Chicago Tribune


The phrase blown out of proportion is another way to say to overreact.