Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a situation in which serious problems are likely to develop

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun flashpoint, originally also flashing point, is a combination of the verb ‘flash’ and the noun ‘point’. It was first used in English in the late 19th century.


Just as the boiling point is the temperature at which a liquid boils, a flashpoint is the temperature at which a gas ignites. This was the original meaning of the term, coined in the latter half of the 19th century when such matters as the temperatures at which the vapours produced by substances like petroleum would catch fire started to be of vital interest and importance. This meaning has now been overtaken by the word’s metaphorical meanings and is therefore the third listed in the Macmillan Dictionary entry. When people talk about a flashpoint these days they are probably referring either to a place where violence is likely to erupt or a situation where serious problems are likely to develop.


In the midst of geopolitical flashpoints around the world, the impact of geopolitical disruptions cannot be underestimated.
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“This part shall apply to all new tankers carrying crude oil and petroleum products having a flashpoint not exceeding 60°C.
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The peninsula remains a dangerous flashpoint, and territorial disputes are widespread.
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Related words

minefield, cauldron, crucible

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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