touch off


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touch off

1. To start a fire or detonate an explosive device. He touched off the firework just as the school assembly was about to begin. Don't smoke in here! You might touch off the dry hay.
2. By extension, to trigger or initiate a reaction. A noun or pronoun can be used between "touch" and "off." Our teacher is so high-strung that the slightest provocation touches him off. The announcement touched off a riot in downtown Los Angeles.
See also: off, touch

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

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

v.
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 ?
Viva Orosco: It has been 12 years since relief pitcher Jesse Orosco put lampblack in Kirk Gibson's hat before a spring training game, a prank that helped focus the Dodgers and touch off their miraculous run to a World Series title.
Too much spice can quickly touch off a three-alarm blaze to the taste buds, while too many vegetables can make the concoction too sweet.
Pope John Paul II, whose simplest words and gestures helped touch off revolutions that changed the course of the 20th century, offers a once-unimaginable image to Cubans awaiting his historic visit.
Whitehead, who is not backing attempts to change the no-fault law, helped touch off the wave of anti-divorce thinking with her 1993 Atlantic Monthly article titled ``Dan Quayle Was Right.
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.