Have a short fuse

Have a short fuse is an idiom that may not be as old as you think. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as beat around the bush, ballpark figure, let the cat out of the bag, hit the sack, Achilles heel, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, a dime a dozen, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the expression have a short fuse, its etymology and some example sentences using the term.

To have a short fuse means to anger quickly, to have a volatile temper, to lose one’s composure with little provocation. Someone who has a short fuse will lose his temper quickly, usually for things that do not provoke other people to such high levels of angry emotion. The idiom have a short fuse comes from the fuse used to set off explosives such as dynamite or firecrackers. An explosive item with a short fuse will blow up quickly, perhaps prematurely. The phrase have a short fuse became popular in the mid-twentieth century. Related phrases are has a short fuse, had a short fuse, having a short fuse.


My brother, who had a short fuse and was not known for his political correctness, muttered that they were probably illiterate and couldn’t read. (The Jerusalem Post)

In the report, the man also said that he felt threatened by one of the staff members who stated they had a short fuse. (Moultrie News)

In the ensuing moments, Cantona — who is known to have a short fuse — lunged into him with a kung-fu style kick. (The Economic Times)

‘The figures show that police are increasingly subject to violence during festivals and in areas where clubbers go… drink and drugs often play a role and we see that people have a short fuse.’ (Dutch News)

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