flare up

verb (used without object), flared, flar·ing.

  1. to burn with an unsteady, swaying flame, as a torch or candle in the wind.
  2. to blaze with a sudden burst of flame (often followed by up): The fire flared up as the paper caught.
  3. to start up or burst out in sudden, fierce intensity or activity (often followed by up): His stomach problems have flared up.
  4. to become suddenly enraged; express sudden, fierce anger or passion (usually followed by up or out): I’m not a person who flares easily. She sometimes flares out at the kids.
  5. to shine or glow.
  6. to spread gradually outward, as the end of a trumpet, the bottom of a wide skirt, or the sides of a ship.

verb (used with object), flared, flar·ing.

  1. to cause (a candle, torch, etc.) to burn with a swaying flame.
  2. to display conspicuously or ostentatiously.
  3. to signal by flares of fire or light.
  4. to cause (something) to spread gradually outward in form.
  5. Metallurgy. to heat (a high-zinc brass) to such a high temperature that the zinc vapors begin to burn.
  6. to discharge and burn (excess gas) at a well or refinery.


  1. a flaring or swaying flame or light, as of torches in the wind.
  2. a sudden blaze or burst of flame.
  3. a bright blaze of fire or light used as a signal, a means of illumination or guidance, etc.
  4. a device or substance used to produce such a blaze of fire or light.
  5. a sudden burst, as of zeal or of anger.
  6. a gradual spread outward in form; outward curvature: the flare of a skirt.
  7. something that spreads out.
  8. Optics. light, often unwanted or extraneous, reaching the image plane of an optical instrument, as a camera, resulting from reflections, scattering by lenses, and the like.
  9. Photography. a fogged appearance given to an image by reflection within a camera lens or within the camera itself.
  10. Also called solar flare. Astronomy. a sudden and brief brightening of the solar atmosphere in the vicinity of a sunspot that results from an explosive release of particles and radiation.
  11. Football. a short pass thrown to a back who is running toward a sideline and is not beyond the line of scrimmage.
  12. Television. a dark area on a CRT picture tube caused by variations in light intensity.


  1. to burn or cause to burn with an unsteady or sudden bright flame
  2. to spread or cause to spread outwards from a narrow to a wider shape
  3. (tr) to make a conspicuous display of
  4. to increase the temperature of (a molten metal or alloy) until a gaseous constituent of the melt burns with a characteristic flame or (of a molten metal or alloy) to show such a flame
  5. (tr sometimes foll by off) (in the oil industry) to burn off (unwanted gas) at an oil well


  1. an unsteady flame
  2. a sudden burst of flame
    1. a blaze of light or fire used to illuminate, identify, alert, signal distress, etc
    2. the device producing such a blaze
  3. a spreading shape or anything with a spreading shapea skirt with a flare
  4. a sudden outburst, as of emotion
  5. optics
    1. the unwanted light reaching the image region of an optical device by reflections inside the instrument, etc
    2. the fogged area formed on a negative by such reflectionsSee also solar flare
  6. astronomy short for solar flare
  7. aeronautics the final transition phase of an aircraft landing, from the steady descent path to touchdown
  8. an open flame used to burn off unwanted gas at an oil well

“bright, unsteady light,” 1814, from flare (v.), which led to the sense of “signal fire” (1883). Flares “flared trousers” is from 1964.


mid-16c., originally “spread out” (hair), of unknown origin, perhaps from Dutch vlederen. Related: Flared; flaring. The notion of “spreading out in display” is behind the notion of “spreading gradually outward” (1640s). Flare-up “a sudden burst” is from 1837.


  1. An area of redness on the skin surrounding the primary site of infection or irritation.

Suddenly become angry, as in She flared up at the slightest provocation. This metaphoric expression, dating from the mid-1800s, transfers a sudden burst of flame to sudden rage.

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