Fly off the handle means to become enraged, especially suddenly. The phrase connotes irrationality. One who flies off the handle isn’t thinking clearly and is likely to regret it later, other verb forms are flew off the handle and flying off the handle. Fly off the handle is an American phrase that comes from the way an axe-head which has come loose will fly off of its handle in an unpredictable manner and strike any innocent person or object in its way. The first known use of fly off the handle is in Thomas Haliburton’s The Attache or Sam Slick in England, published in 1843. According to Google’s Ngram, the phrase fly off the handle has steadily risen in use since its introduction, leveling off at the end of the twentieth century.
They’re much more likely to fly off the handle and do something inappropriate — like break somebody’s jaw.” (The Chicago Tribune)
Sources have told Mail Online that Dougherty could regularly fly off the handle and become aggressive, but that they are ‘shocked’ he is now accused of murder. (The Daily Mail)
It also took me a long time (longer than most) to develop the emotional maturity, which makes me a better wife to my husband–and less likely to fly off the handle when I don’t get my way. (Redbook Magazine)
An early riser who dashes off emails well before dawn, Hewson is not someone prone to fly off the handle when something goes wrong, associates say. (Reuters)
I never used to fly off the handle that much, but now I just think before I speak. (The Mirror)
That’s a first for this happy camper, who has learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder, and has been known to fly off the handle in anger. (The Toronto Star)
No matter that his abrasive temperament and tendency to fly off the handle would appear to make him a bad fit for politics. (The Globe and Mail)