- The idiom "stoking the flames" typically means encouraging or worsening a negative situation or feeling.
At its core, the idiom "stoking the flames" connotes encouraging or intensifying an already existing issue or emotion, thereby amplifying it. By actively "stoking" or fueling the "flames" or existing issues or tensions, the individual escalates the situation further, much like how adding fuel to the fire makes it burn hotter and more intensely.
Let's dive into its core meanings and usage:
It should be noted that while the idiom primarily has negative connotations, it can sometimes be used in a neutral or even positive manner, where "stoking the flames" might refer to encouraging or revitalizing a harmless situation or emotion.
The idiom "stoking the flames" can trace its origins to the physical act of stoking a fire, which involves adding fuel to the fire to keep it burning or to make it burn more vigorously. The idiomatic use of this phrase is derived from this literal meaning. Now let's see how it has evolved historically:
References to "stoking the flames" can be found as early as the 17th century in various literary works where the term was used more in its literal sense. As time progressed, it started to gain a more figurative application, symbolizing the act of encouraging or inciting certain behaviors or situations. Though it's tough to pinpoint an exact initial usage in a figurative sense, its adoption in language grew over centuries.
“…we shall not be found stoking the flames of dissent…” – excerpt from a parliamentary debate in the early 19th century.
The phrase has been used in literary and political contexts to exacerbate or encourage an existing situation.
This idiom's diverse applications can be understood by looking at various examples. Here are ten sentences where "stoking the flames" is used in different contexts:
"Stoking the flames" not only finds usage in everyday language but has also been seen in popular culture. Here are a few instances:
Like many other idioms, "stoking the flames" also has synonyms and phrases with similar meanings. Here are a few:
It refers to the act of encouraging or intensifying an existing situation, generally a negative one, thereby amplifying it.
It originates from the literal act of stoking a fire to keep it burning or make it burn more vigorously. It has been used in literature and political discourse since the 17th century.
Yes, while it often refers to exacerbating a negative situation, it can also be used to describe encouraging a positive or neutral situation.
It can be used in various contexts, often to indicate that someone is encouraging or exacerbating a situation, feeling, or argument.
Yes, it can be found in songs, movies, and TV series, generally implying intensifying situations or emotions.
Yes, for instance, the band Demons & Wizards has a song titled "Stoking the Flames of the Fire."
Yes, similar phrases include "fanning the fires," "adding fuel to the fire," "provoking," and "aggravating the situation."
Yes, it is often used to encourage readers to nurture their inner drive, representing the action of encouraging passion and ambition.
Initially used in a more literal sense, it has evolved to gain a more figurative application, symbolizing the act of encouraging or inciting certain behaviors or situations.
It has been utilized in parliamentary debates in the 19th century to represent the act of encouraging dissent.
Stoking the flames" vividly describes encouraging a negative situation or provoking stronger reactions. It can be used in different contexts, including during discussions where one person encourages a heated argument or in narratives to describe the escalation of conflict or troubles. The phrase can explain reckless and potentially dangerous actions, as they can lead to uncontrolled outcomes.
Here's a quick wrap-up: