touch off


touched off; touching off; touches off

transitive verb

: to provoke or initiate with sudden intensity
the verdict touched off local riots
: to cause to explode by or as if by touching with fire
: to describe or characterize with precision

Examples of touch off in a Sentence

his obscene comment touched off a heated debate about the need for censorship on live broadcasts
Recent Examples on the Web Most have touched off familiar conflicts of varying intensity. Michael Smolens, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 May 2024 An hour later, Palestinian gunmen breached security barriers and infiltrated Israel by land, air and sea, killing 1,200 people, taking 253 hostages and touching off a bloody war that threatened to engulf the Middle East. Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, USA TODAY, 7 May 2024 Type 2 virus had been eradicated by then, and the only remaining type 2 polio cases were touched off by the live virus in the vaccine itself. Byleslie Roberts,, 7 May 2024 The tension goes to the heart of a question that has touched off debate among observers and critics of the protests: At what point does pro-Palestinian political speech in a time of war cross the line into the type of antisemitism colleges have vowed to combat? Katherine Rosman, New York Times, 29 Apr. 2024 The release of the documentary, directed by Samantha Stark, touched off an Internet firestorm and inspired celebrity apologies from Justin Timberlake, Perez Hilton and Sarah Silverman. Katie Kilkenny, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Sep. 2019 The shooting touched off a firestorm in Newport News. Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, 9 Apr. 2024 Burnham’s death in 1985 touched off a series of events that began to change the country. Gaiutra Bahadur Keisha Scarville, New York Times, 30 Mar. 2024 In addition to touching off anger around the world, the strikes have caused concern that the distribution of food aid in Gaza – which was already extremely limited – will become even more dangerous. Rob Picheta, CNN, 4 Apr. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'touch off.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1694, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of touch off was in 1694

Dictionary Entries Near touch off

Cite this Entry

“Touch off.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

touch off

: to start by or as if by touching with fire
the announcement touched off riots
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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