To Fan the Flames – Idiom, Meaning & Sentence Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Have you ever heard of the phrase fan the flames and thought it’s some sort of barbecue technique or a fire safety no-no? It’s neither, actually. Once you understand the meaning of fan the flames, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the idiom. Buckle up and get ready to feed your curiosity about this hot phrase.

What Does the Idiom Fan the Flames Mean?

To Fan the Flames – Idiom Meaning Sentence Examples

If you’re picturing someone literally fanning flames with a newspaper or a hat, you’re on the right track, but only figuratively. Fanning the flames means intensifying or stirring up an existing, often negative, situation or condition. It’s about adding fuel to the fire, making a situation more heated, or escalating a conflict.

Origin and Etymology Behind Fan the Flames

Fan the Flames Ngram
Fan the flames usage trend.

The phrase fan the flames derives from examples of the natural world. If you’ve ever tried to start a fire, you know that a little oxygen can really get things going. That’s where the concept of fanning comes in — to fan a flame is to expose it to more air and help it burn more fiercely.

This idiom has been around for centuries, with an early example showing up in Dickens’ work “The Old Curiosity Shop” in the 1800s. But we’re sure he didn’t mean to cause an actual fire.

“Fan the sinking flames of hilarity with the wing of friendship…”

To Fan the Flames Synonyms

There are tons of other ways to say fan the flames that still hold the same message.

  • Stoke the fire
  • Fuel the conflict
  • Pour gas on the fire
  • Incite the trouble
  • Intensify the situation
  • Aggravate the problem

To Fan the Flames Idiom Sentence Examples

To Fan the Flames – Idiom Meaning Sentence Examples 1

Time to turn up the heat with some sentence examples that show you how you can use this expression in conversation and writing.

  • The coach’s harsh criticism only fanned the flames of the team’s poor performance.
  • Her gossipy comments only served to fan the flames of the existing rumors.
  • The politician fanned the flames of the protest with his controversial remarks.
  • The media often fans the flames of celebrity scandals.
  • His refusal to apologize only fanned the flames of Jane’s anger.
  • The company’s inadequate response to the marketing controversy only fanned the flames of customer backlash.
  • My sarcastic comment only fanned the flames during the argument I had with my husband.
  • The new policy fanned the flames of discontent among the workers who’d been waiting weeks for an update on contracts.
  • His stirring speech fanned the flames of revolution among the populace.
  • The artist’s controversial painting intentionally fanned the flames of the cultural debate.

The Final Spark!

Fan the flames is a useful idiom that conveys the act of intensifying or exacerbating a situation. So, when you see someone stoking the fire of controversy, you’ll know exactly how to describe what they’re doing. Just don’t let any metaphorical fires get out of control! Keep the fire burning, and check out my other helpful guides!

Want to know more idioms? Check out some others we covered: