touch off

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Encyclopedia.
Related to touch off: On a par, push through, give rise to, fall foul of

touch someone or something off

Fig. to ignite or excite someone or something; to excite anger or chaos. She is very excitable. The slightest thing will touch her off. The appearance of the fox touched off a furor in the henhouse.
See also: off, touch

touch off something

also touch something off
to cause something violent or destructive to start Plans for a new homeless shelter touched off a storm of protest. Windblown wires touched off the blaze. There was a dramatic fall in stock prices, and no one is sure what touched it off.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of touch off (to cause an old-fashioned gun to fire)
See also: off, touch

touch off

1. Cause to explode or fire; also, initiate, trigger. For example, The boys touched off a whole line of firecrackers, or These disclosures will touch off a public uproar. This idiom comes from early firearms, which were set off by putting a light to the touch-hole. Its figurative use dates from the late 1800s.
2. Depict very precisely, as in He touched off Teddy Roosevelt as well as it's ever been done. [Mid-1700s]
See also: off, touch

touch off

1. To cause something to explode or rapidly ignite: The spark touched off the puddle of fuel. A cigarette from a passing motorist touched the dry grass off and started a forest fire.
2. To trigger something; initiate something: Investigators wondered what could have touched the fire off. The news of the scandal touched off a public uproar.
See also: off, touch
References in periodicals archive ?
For if the pontiff's kiss seals an unspoken deal between the institutions of church and state, it may also touch off something far less predictable among the millions of people who are watching him.
Two 17-year-old burglary suspects were arrested Monday after slamming a stolen minivan into a power pole, causing live wires to touch off a brush fire at an elementary school.
Should God so choose, McCartney said in a recent interview, the organization's gathering might touch off a national upsurge in religious fervor, like the two that swept America in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The start of work at the site has yet to touch off large-scale protests in the West Bank, and most of Bethlehem was quiet Thursday.
Fighting between the Zairian army and Tutsi rebels Friday entered a seventh day, crippling efforts by relief agencies to reach tens of thousands of refugees and threatening to touch off a regional war, diplomats and officials said.
government's integrity is at stake, a key Senate committee chairman vowed to bolster two current government probes - perhaps with congressional subpoena power - into possible CIA ties to a drug ring that helped touch off the crack scourge of the 1980s.