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Fans of the Swedish football club Hammarby IF holding flares (sense 2.1) during the traditional ‘supporters’ march’ in Stockholm, Sweden
A flare (sense 2.2) at an oil refinery in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Germany
A mid-1970s photograph of a woman on a beach wearing flares (sense 5) or bell-bottom jeans
Flare (sense 9) in a photograph of greater rheas in Brasília, Brazil

Origin unknown, first recorded in the mid 16th century, probably related to Latin flagrō (I burn). Norwegian flara (to blaze; to flaunt in gaudy attire) has a similar meaning, but the English word predates it. Possibly related to Middle High German vlederen (to flutter), represented by modern German flattern.[1]

The noun is derived from the verb.[2]



flare (plural flares)

  1. A sudden bright light.
  2. A source of brightly burning light or intense heat.
    • 1876 January 28, “Japanese Consulate General, Shanghai. Before E. Shinagawa, Esq., Consul-General. Jan. 22, 1876. Capt. Roper v. Mitsu Bishi Mail S.S. Co.”, in The Japan Mail. A Fortnightly Summary of Intelligence from Japan, [], volume VII, number 9, Yokohama: Printed and published for the proprietor by H. Collins, [], published 25 April 1876, OCLC 42521218, page 248, column 1:
      I was looking in the direction of the lightship off and on from the time we first sighted her. I could not be mistaken in such a matter as a flare-up light. By a flare-up light I mean a large bright light waved in the air, something like a torch dipped in resin and waved about. I am prepared to say that any person who has sworn that she shewed a flare-up light from the lightship while the Kanagawa Maru was passing has perjured himself.
    • 1913 December 13, “The Inquest Resumed. [Captain Froggatt’s Report.]”, in The North-China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette: The Weekly Edition of the North-China Daily News, volume CIX (New Series), number 2418, Shanghai: Printed and published for the proprietors, The North-China Daily News & Herald, Ltd., [], OCLC 662525861, page 807, column 2:
      [T]he forward deck near the house was all saturated with spilt oil and there was a quantity of oakum lying about, some of which possibly had been used for flares or distress signals.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter XII, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 4293071, pages 87–88:
      In the little fair created by the costers' barrows the evening only seemed beginning; and the naphtha flares made one's eyes ache, the men's voices grated harshly, and the girls' faces saddened one.
    • 1926, Edwin S. George, “African Nights”, in Cairo to Cape: Four Afoot through Africa, New York, N.Y.: The Knickerbocker Press, OCLC 6902222, page 195:
      We made a movie picture by the use of flares, the brilliant light startling the blacks, but their surprise quickly gave way to enthusiasm,—just another of the white bwana's magic powers.
    • 2012 March, A. F. Kowalski; S. L. Hawley; J. A. Holtzmann; J. P. Wisniewski; E. J. Hilton, “The Multiple Continuum Components in the White-light Flare of 16 January 2009 on the dM4.5e Star YZ CMi”, in Solar Physics, volume 277, number 1, DOI:10.1007/s11207-011-9839-x, page 21; republished in Yuhong Fan and George Fisher, editors, Solar Flare Magnetic Fields and Plasmas, New York, N.Y.; Dordrecht: Springer, 2012, →ISBN, abstract, page 21:
      The white light during M dwarf flares has long been known to exhibit the broadband shape of a T ≈ 10 000 K blackbody, and the white light in solar-flares is thought to arise primarily from hydrogen recombination. Yet, a current lack of broad-wavelength coverage solar flare spectra in the optical/near-UV region prohibits a direct comparison of the continuum properties to determine if they are indeed so different. New spectroscopic observations of a secondary flare during the decay of a megaflare on the dM4.5e star YZ CMi have revealed multiple components in the white-light continuum of stellar flares, including both a blackbody-like spectrum and a hydrogen-recombination spectrum.
    1. A type of pyrotechnic that produces a brilliant light without an explosion, used to attract attention in an emergency, to illuminate an area, or as a decoy.
      Flares were used to steer the traffic away from the accident.
      The flares attracted the heat-seeking missiles.
      • 1946, Clayton Knight, The Quest of the Golden Condor, New York, N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, OCLC 1686491, page 262:
        Stowed away in the plane Jack had a signal pistol and several red and green cartridges, but until a search plane appeared the flares would be useless.
      • 2009, James Fleming, chapter 55, in Cold Blood, London: Jonathan Cape, →ISBN; republished London: Vintage Books, 2010, →ISBN, page 262:
        While he was putting on the snowplough, the Whites shot up a flare to see what was happening. It floated above us like a fizzing star at the end of a tiny white petal of a parachute. We threw ourselves down, in between the rails, in there with the dog shit.
    2. (oil industry) A flame produced by a burn-off of waste gas (flare gas) from a flare tower (or flare stack), typically at an oil refinery.
      • 2013, David Brennan, “Identification of Waste in Utility Systems”, in Sustainable Process Engineering: Concepts, Strategies, Evaluation, and Implementation, Singapore: Pan Stanford Publishing, →ISBN, part B (Strategies), section 6.8 (Flare Stacks), page 122:
        Flare stacks are used in gas plants, petroleum refineries, and petrochemical plants to combust surplus hydrocarbons to produce combustion products that are neither toxic nor combustible. Flares frequently incorporate a liquid-gas separator at the base of the stack and steam assisted burner nozzles at the top of the stack to aid complete combustion.
  3. (figuratively) A sudden eruption or outbreak; a flare-up.
    • 2013, Susan Rowen James; Kristine Ann Nelson; Jean Weiler Ashwill, “The Child with Major Alterations in Tissue Integrity”, in Nursing Care of Children: Principle & Practice, 4th edition, St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders, →ISBN, unit IV (Caring for Children with Health Problems), page 631, column 2:
      Antiinflammatory corticosteroid creams and ointments are prescribed for inflamed or lichenified areas. These creams are more effective when applied to damp skin. The lowest potency that controls signs should be used, and topical steroids are usually reserved for treatment of episodic flares.
  4. A widening of an object with an otherwise roughly constant width.
    During assembly of a flare tube fitting, a flare nut is used to secure the flared tubing’s tapered end to the also tapered fitting, producing a pressure-resistant, leak-tight seal.
    That's a genuine early 70's flare on those pants.
    • 1917 February 15, “The New York Guide to Fashion’s Course”, in Vogue, volume 49, number 4, New York, N.Y.: The Vogue Company, OCLC 906145997, page 45:
      That silhouette which is at present under consideration, the much-talked-of "barrel," appears in a Bulloz suit of rough white woolen material stitched with blue cotton thread; both on the skirt and coat the flare is somewhat lower than is usual with flares.
    • 2003, Timothy D[avid] Noakes, Lore of Running, 4th edition, Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics, →ISBN, page 270:
      The flare on the inside of the shoe resists ankle pronation; []
    1. (nautical) The increase in width of most ship hulls with increasing height above the waterline.
      Antonym: tumblehome
  5. (in the plural) Bell-bottom trousers.
    • 1991 September 15, Ruth La Ferla, “Next weave”, in The New York Times Magazine[1], archived from the original on 20 August 2018:
      In the early 1970's, a giddy epoch in men's fashion, when denim flares and platform oxfords were the outer edge of style, Giorgio Armani made a suit that stretched. Imbued with spandex, the elastic fiber that gives a fabric extra bounce, the suit was one of the first in a long line of innovations that would eventually make Armani as familiar a brand as Kleenex.
    • 2012, Daniel Miller, “Why Denim?”, in Consumption and Its Consequences, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire; Malden, Mass.: Polity Press, →ISBN, page 94:
      As a teenager I hitch-hiked around free rock concerts, wearing flowered shirts and denim flares – jeans that were worn so much, in such rough conditions, and with so little attention to washing and care that after a while they became naturally abraded and frayed in just the manner that is simulated by commerce today.
  6. (aviation) The transition from downward flight to level flight just before landing.
    The captain executed the flare perfectly, and we lightly touched down.
    • 2018, Trevor M. Young, “Approach and Landing”, in Performnce of the Jet Transport Airplane: Analysis Methods, Flight Operations, and Regulations, Hoboken, N.J.; Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, section 11.2.2 (Landing Flare), page 285:
      In normal operations, the rate of descent (or sink rate) will be approximately constant as the airplane approaches the runway. The objective of the flare is to reduce the vertical speed to an acceptably low value at the time when contact is made with the ground. [] Typically, the airplane will slow down a little in the flare and the touchdown speed will be about 3 to 5 kt less than the speed at the screen height [].
  7. (baseball) A low fly ball that is hit in the region between the infielders and the outfielders.
    Synonyms: blooper, Texas leaguer
    Jones hits a little flare to left that falls for a single.
    • 2008, Mark Gola, “Character”, in Baseball’s Sixth Tool: Playing the Mental Game to Get the Competitive Edge, New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, →ISBN, page 7:
      An observant base runner checks the outfield defense and easily goes from first to third when the batter hits a flare to right field. A base runner who does not observe the depth of the outfield must turn to watch the ball, see it drop, and then run. He probably doesn't make it to third base.
  8. (American football) A route run by the running back, releasing toward the sideline and then slightly arcing upfield looking for a short pass.
  9. (photography) Short for lens flare.
    • 1874 October 23, “On Certain Defects in Combination Landscape Lenses”, in The British Journal of Photography, volume XXI, number 755, London: Henry Greenwood, [], OCLC 920440998, page 515, column 1:
      The defect in question is the flare which frequently arises from the use of compound lenses when there is a very bright object in front, resulting in a ghost-like image of that object being thrown upon the plate. If the image of the object thus duplicated be in focus we designate it a "ghost;" if out of focus we call it "flare."
  10. An inflammation such as of tendons (tendonitis) or joints (osteoarthritis).
    Synonym: flare-up
  11. A breakdance move of someone helicoptering his torso on alternating arms.


Derived terms[edit]

Terms derived from flare (noun)


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


flare (third-person singular simple present flares, present participle flaring, simple past and past participle flared)

  1. (transitive) To cause to burn; in particular, to burn off excess gas (flare gas).
    • 2008, “Going Green: The Country is Keen to Increase Its Environmental Credentials”, in The Report: Qatar 2008, [s.l.]: Oxford Business Group, →ISBN, marginal note, page 247:
      Qatar joined the World Bank's Global Gas Flaring Reduction programme in early 2008, indicating its commitment to reducing the process of flaring the gas found with oil deposits.
    • 2013 April, Blair L. Pollock, “Doing New Things”, in Lyle Estill, editor, Small Stories Big Changes: Agents of Change on the Frontlines of Sustainability, Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society Publishers, →ISBN, page 147:
      One time I was working with the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) on fueling their fleet, and I was surprised to see them flaring the methane at their wastewater facility.
  2. (transitive) To cause inflammation; to inflame.
    • 2012, John Fisk, “October Fifth; Saturday”, in Monk’s Hood, [Bloomington, Ind.]: Xlibris, →ISBN, book 2 (Comes the Demon), page 229:
      Trying to draw a breath flared the pressure on his chest into searing agony.
    • 2015, Theresa A. Chiaia; Miho J. Tanaka; Christopher S. Ahmad, “[Acromioclavicular Joint Injuries and Sternoclavicular Joint Injuries] Nonoperative Rehabilitation of Clavicular Fractures”, in Orthopaedic Rehabilitation of the Athlete: Getting Back in the Game, Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders, →ISBN, page 383, column 1:
      Adequate rest is incorporated into upper extremity training program so as not to flare the joint.
  3. (transitive, intransitive) To open outward in shape.
    The cat flared its nostrils while sniffing at the air. (transitive)
    The cat’s nostrils flared when it sniffed at the air. (intransitive)
    The building flared from the third through the seventh floors to occupy the airspace over the entrance plaza. (intransitive)
    The sides of a bowl flare. (intransitive)
    • 1871 May 30, Edward T. Smith; Joseph S. Winston, Improvement in Devices for Making Ends of Burial-cases[2], US Patent 115,536, page 3:
      We claim as our invention—The rigid parts G and H′, and flexible part H with screws I, for forcibly operating when the parts are flared, as represented, and the strap H is drawn obliquely inward or together at the sides, so as to press all the surface of the bent and flared casket end, as herein set forth.
    • 1872 December 20, Joseph A. Shephard, Improvement in Pitman Connections[3], US Patent 140,312, page 2, column 2:
      That portion of said wrist eye beyond the pitman forms a cylindrical orifice, e, which, towards its other end, gradually flares outward, as at e′.
    • 1915 May, “What They Wear in Vanity Fair: From Top to Toe of the Parisienne”, in Frank Crowninshield, editor, Vanity Fair, volume 4, number 3, New York, N.Y.: Vanity Fair Publishing Company, OCLC 423870134, page 67, column 3:
      Everywhere one sees the blouse, buttoned up the front to the top of a tight collar, which either flares up suddenly under the ears or droops dejectedly to the shoulders.
    • 2012, Paula Graves, chapter 13, in Secret Assignment, Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Enterprises, →ISBN, page 150:
      Damon's nostrils flared, the only sign of anger he showed. The sign of a professional.
  4. (transitive, intransitive, aviation) To (operate an aircraft to) transition from downward flight to level flight just before landing.
    • 2012, Wil Johnson, chapter 6, in Revenge and Restoration, [Bloomington, Ind.]: Xlibris, →ISBN, page 35:
      After a brief refueling stop in Fairbanks, Billy continued on to the cabin. As he flared the Huey [a helicopter] to land, he could see Moses running out of the cabin to greet him
    • 2013 May 31, Steve Grizzle, “As Flight Instructor”, in The 3 ‘P’ Man: Memoirs of a Perfect Life Adventure: A Preacher, a Pilot, and a Police Officer All in One Person, Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse, →ISBN, pages 71–72:
      I had one instructor that called and said he had tried everything to solo his student but the guy just couldn't get the picture of what was expected. One time around the airport the student would flare the airplane twenty feet in the air, and the next time around he would fly the nose into the ground. [] He either flared out very high, or didn't flare out at all.
  5. (intransitive) To blaze brightly.
    The blast furnace flared in the night.
    • 1802, Joanna Baillie, “Ethwald: A Tragedy, in Five Acts. Part Second.”, in A Series of Plays: In which It is Attempted to Delineate the Stronger Passions of the Mind. [], volume II, London: [] T[homas] Cadell, Jun. and W[illiam] Davies, [], OCLC 926850714, Act V, scene v, page 351:
      Thou rear'st thy stately neck, / And, while I list, thou flarest in men's eyes / A gorgeous queen; []
    • 1846 June, “Anthologia Germanica, No. XXII. Uhland’s Ballads.”, in The Dublin University Magazine, a Literary and Political Journal, volume XXVII, number CLXII, Dublin: James McGlashan, []; London: W[illiam] S[omerville] Orr and Company, OCLC 949553349, page 678:
      And when Slaughter and Pillage begin to tire, / High flareth red Fire! / How he roars and hisses and flashes! / His frenzy soon turns / The proud pile to a mass of grey ashes, []
    • 1850, Charles Mackay, “Popular Follies in Great Cities”, in Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, volume I, Philadelphia, Pa.: Lindsay and Blackiston, OCLC 6807516, page 218:
      This phrase was "Flare up!" and it is, even now, a colloquialism in common use. It took its rise in the time of the Reform riots, when Bristol was nearly half burned by the infuriated populace. The flames were said to have flared up in the devoted city.
    • 1860, R[obert] W[ilson] Evans, “XV. Christian Battle.”, in Daily Hymns, London: Joseph Masters, [], OCLC 7520520, page 38:
      Now spent night her watchers spareth, / Now the sun's bright banner flareth, / Now morn's gale day's trump is blowing.
    • 1887, H. Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure[4]:
      On he went a few paces and touched a second, then a third, and a fourth, till at last we were surrounded on all three sides by a great ring of bodies flaring furiously, the material with which they were preserved having rendered them so inflammable that the flames would literally spout out of the ears and mouth in tongues of fire a foot or more in length.
  6. (intransitive) To shine out with a sudden and unsteady light; to emit a dazzling or painfully bright light.
    The candle flared in a sudden draught.
    • 1850 March 9, “The Candle”, in The Working Man’s Friend, and Family Instructor, volume I, number 10, London: Printed and published by John Cassell, [], OCLC 1770110, page 302, column 2:
      The substance to which all common flames owe their brightness is finely-divided charcoal. [] Of this formation of charcoal the proof is obvious whenever a candle flares and smokes; for the unburnt charcoal soon collects in the upper part of the flame, and if not removed is apt to fall into the cup of the candle, where it forms a kind of second wick, rapidly melting away the tallow, and disfiguring the candle, []
  7. (intransitive, figuratively) To shine out with gaudy colours; to be offensively bright or showy.
  8. (intransitive, figuratively) To suddenly happen or intensify.
    Synonym: flare up
    • 1851 October, J[ames] D[avenport] W[helpley], “The ‘Hyperion’ of John Keats”, in The American Whig Review, volume XIII, number LXXXII (volume VIII, number IV (New Series)), New York, N.Y.: Published at 120 Nassau Street; John A. Gray, printer, [], OCLC 950903178, page 312, column 1:
      The genius of the poet [John Keats] flares up, dies out, and flares again, as if there were a dearth of fuel to feed it; and by this fault, more than any other, he is removed out of the class of great poets, and occupies but the second rank.
  9. (intransitive, figuratively) To suddenly erupt in anger.
    Synonym: flare up
    • 1868, “[Sale of Iron-clads.] Testimony. Appendix C.”, in Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives for the Second Session of the Fortieth Congress, 1867–’68 (Report; no. 64), volume 2, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, OCLC 30799161, page 57:
      [H]e flared up very much when I told him I could not give him the schedule.
    • 1981, Sharon M. W. Bass, “Years of Challenge”, in For the Trees: An Illustrated History of the Ozark–St. Francis National Forests, 1908–1978, [Atlanta, Ga.?]: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Region, OCLC 8042668, page 123:
      One of the most heated periods occurred in 1965 when the Forest Service decided forest lands could no longer tolerate unrestricted grazing by livestock, especially hogs. [] Notice went out to local residents, and the following year, 1966, Forest Service personnel began trapping hogs grazing in trespass. Both hog owners and cattlemen were angry. Tempers flared, and so did the fires. The number of incendiary fires increased and it seems reasonable to assume some relationship between the two events.
  10. (intransitive, obsolete) To be exposed to too much light.
    • a. 1722, Matthew Prior, “Hans Carvel”, in The Poetical Works of Matthew Prior [], volume I, London: [] W[illiam] Strahan, [], published 1779, OCLC 491256769, page 124:
      [] I [Satan] cannot ſtay / Flaring in ſun-ſhine all the day: / For, entre nous, we helliſh ſprites, / Love more the freſco of the nights; []


Derived terms[edit]

Terms derived from flare (verb)



  1. ^ Partridge, Eric (2003): The Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang, p. 1825
  2. ^ flare, n.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1896; “flare, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1896.
  • flare in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911
  • flare at OneLook Dictionary Search

Further reading[edit]




  • Hyphenation: fla‧re



  1. (astronomy) solar flare


Inflection of flare (Kotus type 8/nalle, no gradation)
nominative flare flaret
genitive flaren flarejen
partitive flarea flareja
illative flareen flareihin
singular plural
nominative flare flaret
accusative nom. flare flaret
gen. flaren
genitive flaren flarejen
partitive flarea flareja
inessive flaressa flareissa
elative flaresta flareista
illative flareen flareihin
adessive flarella flareilla
ablative flarelta flareilta
allative flarelle flareille
essive flarena flareina
translative flareksi flareiksi
instructive flarein
abessive flaretta flareitta
comitative flareineen
Possessive forms of flare (type nalle)
possessor singular plural
1st person flareni flaremme
2nd person flaresi flarenne
3rd person flarensa





  1. inflection of flō:
    1. present active infinitive
    2. second-person singular present passive imperative/indicative