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fan the flames (third-person singular simple present fans the flames, present participle fanning the flames, simple past and past participle fanned the flames)

  1. (idiomatic) To intensify or worsen an already difficult situation.
    • 2002, Scott Hunt, The Future of Peace: On the Front Lines with the World's Great Peacemakers, HarperCollins (2004), →ISBN, page 207:
      In simple terms, both superpowers poured gasoline on the fire and fanned the flames, hoping that out of the ashes would arise a region committed either to democracy or to Soviet-style communism.
    • 2007, Barbara Cartland, A Dream Come True, M-Y Books Distribution (2007), →ISBN, unnumbered page:
      Far from putting a distance between them, his absence was only fanning the flames of her affection.
    • 2010, Calvin F. Exoo, The Pen and the Sword: Press, War, and Terror in the 21st Century, SAGE Publications, Inc. (2010), →ISBN, page 40:
      They worried, too, that such a war would only fan the flames of the Islamic world's animosity toward the United States, producing "a further cycle of terrorist attacks, American casualties and escalation" []
    • 2012, Sarah Boslaugh, "Atlanta, Georgia", in The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America: An Encyclopedia (ed. Wilbur R. Miller), Sage Publications, Inc. (2012), →ISBN, page 74:
      Atlanta newspapers fanned the flames of racial hatred by carrying stories of lynchings and calling for a renewed Ku Klux Klan to “control” blacks.
    • 2012, Steve Faktor, Econovation: The Red, White, and Blue Pill for Arousing Innovation, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (2012), →ISBN, unnumbered page:
      What I don't see happening is the government fanning the flames of competition.