blow up

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See also: blowup and blow-up



From Middle English blow up, blowe up, dissimilated forms of earlier Middle English upblowen (> English upblow), equivalent to blow +‎ up. Compare West Frisian opblaze (to blow up, inflate), Dutch opblazen (to blow up, inflate), German aufblähen and aufblasen (to blow up, inflate), Swedish blåsa upp (to blow up, inflate), Icelandic blása upp (to blow up, inflate), Gothic 𐌿𐍆𐌱𐌻𐌴𐍃𐌰𐌽 (ufblēsan, to blow or puff up).


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blow up (third-person singular simple present blows up, present participle blowing up, simple past blew up, past participle blown up)

  1. (literally, transitive) To blow something upward.
    See if you can blow the bubbles up the staircase.
  2. (intransitive, also figuratively) To explode or be destroyed by explosion.
    Why do cars in movies always blow up when they fall off a cliff?
    • 1961 January, “Talking of Trains: The Severn Bridge disaster”, in Trains Illustrated, pages 3, 5:
      In dense fog at about 10.25 p.m. on the night of October 25, two tank barges carrying petroleum [...] missed the entrance to the docks at Sharpness and were carried up the River Severn by the incoming tide. They collided with one of the piers of the Severn Bridge, carrying the Berkeley Road-Lydney branch of the Western Region, and as a result of the collision both tankers blew up.
  3. (transitive, also figuratively) To cause (something or someone) to explode, or to destroy (something) or maim or kill (someone) by means of an explosion.
    We had to blow up the bridge before the enemy army arrived.
    More civilians than soldiers have been blown up by anti-personnel mines.
    • 1947 January and February, Gerald Druce (Jun.), “A Journey on the "Slovak Arrow"”, in Railway Magazine, page 16:
      Temporary bridges are now common in Moravia and Slovakia as so many permanent structures were blown up during the last phase of the war.
    • 2011, Cochrane, John H., “Determinacy and Identification with Taylor Rules”, in Journal of Political Economy, volume 119, number 3, page 606:
      The attempts to rule out multiple equilibria basically state that the government will blow up the economy should accelerating inflation or deflation occur.
    • 2023 May 17, Paul Clifton, “Building bridges to Ukraine...”, in RAIL, number 983, page 31:
      "But we wanted to be more ambitious. We had established contacts with the Ukrainian railways, and they had all sorts of needs. Bridges blown up by the Russians, but also bridges blown up by themselves in tactical battlefield operations."
  4. (transitive) To inflate or fill with air, either by literally blowing or using an air pump.
    For the school science project, each student will blow up a balloon and then tie it closed.
  5. (transitive) To enlarge or zoom in.
    Blow up the picture to get a better look at their faces.
  6. (intransitive) To fail disastrously.
    • 2002, Joan Barfoot, Critical injuries, page 118:
      So I wish you luck, but don't come crying to me when it blows up in your face.
  7. (slang, intransitive) To become popular very quickly.
    This album is about to blow up; they’re being promoted on MTV.
    • 1999, Eminem, My Name Is (song)
      You know you blew up when the women rush your stands
      And try to touch your hands like some screaming Usher fans []
  8. (slang) To suddenly get very angry.
    Dad blew up at me when I told him I was pregnant.
  9. (slang, intransitive) To become much more fat or rotund in a short space of time.
  10. (transitive, dated) To inflate, as with pride, self-conceit, etc.; to puff up.
    to blow someone up with flattery
  11. (transitive, dated) To excite.
    to blow up a contention
  12. (transitive, dated) To scold violently.
    • 1807, The Port Folio, page 313:
      [] did not choose to comply with her wishes. Upon which Mrs. Basset, in the language of the Old Bailey, nabbed the rust; insisted upon some liquor, would not quit the house without it, and began to blow up the hostess and blast the rose.
    • 1871, George Eliot [pseudonym; Mary Ann Evans], chapter 13, in Middlemarch [], volume I, Edinburgh, London: William Blackwood and Sons, →OCLC, book II:
      #*: I have blown him up well — nobody can say I wink at what he does.
  13. (sports) To blow the whistle.
  14. (cycling) To succumb to oxygen debt and lose the ability to maintain pace in a race.
  15. (slang, transitive) To bombard with a large number of calls, texts, etc., often exasperating the recipient.
    • 2007, “Fucc & Git Up”, in DZ (lyrics), Sleepless City Livin, performed by DZ ft. Gangsta Nutt, from 1:59:
      I am the man
      So I’m sitting in the VIP
      with my mains
      We twisted up some Crip
      but I am ready to dip
      to the telly with my relly
      cuz these fuckin git up chicks keep blowin up my celly.
      aːm ðə meɪ̯n
      soʊ̯ aːm sɪtɪn ɪn ðə vɪp
      wɪθ maː meɪ̯ns
      wiː twɪstəd ʌp sʊm kɹɪp
      bʌt aːm ɹɛdi tu dɪp
      tʊ ðə tɛli wɪθ maː ɹɛli
      kʌz ðiːz fʌkɪn gɪt ʌp t͡ʃɪks kiːp blowɪn ʌp maː sɛli
    • 2009, RM Johnson, Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit, →ISBN:
      Don't let them sabotage a possible good thing by blowing up your phone while you're in the middle of a hot date with nonsense like, “Jason keeps asking for a Popsicle before bed. Do you think it's okay that I give him one?”
    • 2011, Jaime Reed, Living Violet, →ISBN, page 67:
      Dad sure knew how to kill a mood. He had blown up my phone all day, ensuring that I didn't back out of our agreement.
    • 2012, Chris Hicks, Ebony Chronicles of Elevation, volume 1, →ISBN, page 181:
      Not knowing the whereabouts of his daughter, Tavon blew up her phone without once getting a response.
    • 2013, Michelle McKinney Hammond, The Real Deal on Love and Men, →ISBN:
      He has never officially said that we are in a relationship, but he blows up my phone night and day, always wanting to know where I am.
    • 2014 September 11, Alexis Petridis, quoting Kelly Brook, “A freedom fighter for our time: Kelly Brook will not be silenced over Danny Cipriani”, in The Guardian[1]:
      “Danny Cipriani is blowing up my phone saying: ‘I’m going to sue you’,” she said, shortly before announcing her willingness to go to prison over the issue.
    • 2015, Kacey Musgraves, (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      They're blowing up our phones, asking where we are / Just say we're almost there; we ain't even in the car
  16. (slang, intransitive) Receiving a large number of calls or notifications to the point of making the device effectively unusable.
    • 1992, Ice Cube (lyrics and music), “It Was A Good Day”, in The Predator:
      Halfway home, and my pager's still blowin' up
  17. (slang, colloquial) To cause a malodorous smell by flatulation or defecation.
    Don't go in there...I really blew it up.

Usage notes[edit]

In senses 3, 4, and 5 the object may appear before or after the particle. If the object is a pronoun, then it must be before the particle.

Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.