flash in the pan love

flash in the pan

Definitions

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A transient occurrence with no long-term effect.
  • n. A career notable for early success not followed by significant accomplishment.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. the flashing of the priming in the pan of a flintlock musket without discharging the piece; hence, sudden, spasmodic effort that accomplishes nothing.
  • n. See under Flash.
  • intransitive v. a failure or a poor performance, especially after a normal or auspicious start; also, a person whose initial performance appears augur success but who fails to achieve anything notable. From 4th pan, n., sense 3 -- part of a flintlock. Occasionally, the powder in the pan of a flintlock would flash without conveying the fire to the charge, and the ball would fail to be discharged. Thus, a good or even spectacular beginning that eventually achieves little came to be called a flash in the pan.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. someone who enjoys transient success but then fails

Etymologies

From the days of flintlock firearms, where the main charge was intended to be fired by a small charge of gunpowder in the priming pan. If the resultant fire did not pass through the touch-hole and ignite the main charge, the momentary coruscation produced noise and smoke, but no substantial effect, and was termed a “flash in the pan”. Sometimes called "fluff in the pan", the term refers to any ineffectual, short, spasmodic effort which dies in the attempt, such as an explosion of priming in the lockpan of a gun, while the gun itself does not go off. (Wiktionary)

Examples

Sorry, no example sentences found.

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • Yeah, I think that's the connotation that most people mean when they use this phrase--a fleeting event, rather than an ineffectual one. But I guess those meanings kind of intersect in this saying.

    October 21, 2007

  • Interestingly, to me, is that an actual flash in the pan, when it catches the sun just right, is a good metaphor for a fleeting event. An inconvenient, incommensurate feature of the metaphor is that it's hardly of no effect when it blinds you momentarily!

    October 20, 2007

  • The origin of this phrase is similar to that of "going off half-cocked." On black-powder muskets, a flash in the pan occurs when the flint strikes the hammer and creates a spark that ignites the powder in the pan (outside the barrel), but the flame does not transfer into the barrel. The powder in the barrel doesn't ignite, and the bullet (if there is one) doesn't go anywhere. So it's just a flash--no shot, no effect.

    October 20, 2007