Short Fuse – Idiom, Origin and Meaning

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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.

It’s true that most idioms started out as literal expressions or meanings and later morphed into figurative terms or phrases. But “short fuse” is a funny idiom because it still has a widely used literal meaning. So, let’s talk about the correct way to use “short fuse” in a sentence, depending on what context you’re dealing with.

A Short Fuse Meaning Explained

Short Fuse Idiom Origin Meaning

We use the idiom version of “short fuse” to describe someone who always seems to have a quick temper and becomes angry or irritated easily, with their temperament being the figurative fuse. We all know someone like that, and we know not to stir the pot around them.

Then there’s the literal meaning of “short fuse,” which refers to a short length of fuse used in explosives like dynamite. A short fuse burns way quicker, which causes the explosive to detonate much sooner than it would have with a longer fuse.

So, by knowing the literal definition of “short fuse,” you can see how it easily became an idiom for someone’s temper.

Origin of the Idiom Short Fuse

Short Fuse Ngram
Short fuse usage trend.

We can walk all the way back to the early 19th century to find the root of the term “short fuse.” As I mentioned above, in its literal form, it means an actual short length of fuse for explosives or fireworks.

Back in the day, short fuses were used with gunpowder and cannons in battle so the weapons would detonate faster during battle.

It didn’t take much for it to pick up a metaphorical connotation, and it now doubles as an idiom for someone with a quick temper when people realize they have to be quick on their feet around those with this kind of personality.

Synonyms for Short Fuse

There are plenty of other ways to say short fuse, so try any one of these terms and phrases.

  • Quick temper
  • Hot-headed
  • Get their dander up
  • Short-tempered
  • Hair-trigger temper
  • Thin-skinned
  • Easily provoked
  • Impatient

Examples of Short Fuse in a Sentence

Short Fuse Idiom Origin Meaning 1
  • Sarah is known to have a short fuse, so it’s best not to argue with her when she’s upset.
  • My son’s soccer coach has a well-known short fuse, so the team tries their best not to provoke his anger.
  • John’s short fuse easily led to regular arguments with his work colleagues over tiny disagreements and issues.
  • We made sure the fireworks had a short fuse so the display wouldn’t have any major delays.
  • It’s so difficult to work with someone who’s got a short fuse because they can become angry at the slightest provocation, which terrifies me.
  • Her therapist advised Vanessa to practice meditation and deep breathing exercises to help manage her short fuse.
  • As someone who escaped domestic abuse, I can’t stand being around people with a short fuse.

Do You Have a Short Fuse?

If you’ve ever heard someone tell you that you have a short fuse, they’re trying to say that you’re quick to get angry and have a temper flare. But if you know someone that sounds like that, you can now say to yourself that they have a short fuse.