hit the fan

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This expression is almost certainly from colloquial expressions involving shit hitting the fan (and thus being scattered all about).


  • (file)


hit the fan (third-person singular simple present hits the fan, present participle hitting the fan, simple past and past participle hit the fan)

  1. (idiomatic, intransitive) To have a dramatic, usually negative, effect.
    They were just clowning around, when suddenly it all hit the fan.
    Then the shit really hit the fan.
    • 2004 December 2, Neal Cavuto, “Interview With Jeff Flake”, in (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      Let me ask you, Congressman, the case of a lot of these corporate scandals, I followed enough of them to know how -- how it works out. Once everything starts hitting the fan, the CEO, the chairman or maybe a large share of the board of directors simply leaves, resigns

Usage notes[edit]

  • Usually in the phrase (the) shit hits the fan. Use with other subjects than shit is probably intended to evoke the image without actually saying the word which is taboo in some contexts.

Related terms[edit]