What does the idiom "Go down in flames" mean?

Idioms are generally defined as groups of words that form a meaningful whole when they come together, even though the words in them do not make sense on their own. They have produced many idioms according to their own cultural characteristics in communities using the English language. What does Go down in flames mean? In what situations is Go down in flames used?

Meaning of "Go down in flames"


The expression "go down in flames" is a metaphor that suggests a disastrous or catastrophic failure. It is often used to describe a situation in which a plan or person fails in a spectacularly public and embarrassing way. In other words, it is the idea that something can crash and burn.


The phrase "go down in flames" likely originated in the military during World War II. It is likely inspired by the visual image of an airplane or other military vehicle suffering an explosive crash or being shot down in a fight. This phrase was quite popularized among military/pilot groups and it eventually found its way into mainstream usage.


The phrase "go down in flames" can be used for a variety of contexts and meanings. It can be used to describe any situation in which something falls apart quickly and dramatically, often with disastrous consequences. It is often used to describe a business venture or plan that fails quickly or a person who experiences a major public embarrassment. This phrase can also be used sarcastically to describe a situation that may not be explicitly disastrous but is still considered to be a failure.

Example Sentences

  • The company's new product launch went down in flames due to numerous technical glitches.
  • The team's season was over before it began, going down in flames after the star player was injured.
  • The presentation was a disaster, going down in flames in front of the entire board of directors.
  • The politician's career went down in flames after the scandal broke.

The meanings of the words in the "Go down in flames" idiom

The Surprising Origins of Everyday English Idioms

Many English idioms have surprisingly dark origins, often rooted in violence, death, and superstition. For instance, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" is said to have originated in the 17th century, when heavy rain would often cause dead animals to wash up on the streets. Meanwhile, the idiom "rule of thumb" is believed to have originated from a law that allowed men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than their thumb.


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