Blow Off Steam

Also: Let off steam

Meaning of Idiom ‘Blow Off Steam’

To blow off steam means to do something that helps relieve stress, tension, anger, or strong emotions; to get out one’s pent up feelings by complaining or talking loudly, or by some energetic activity; to play or work off excess energy, especially children. 1Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms]. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.,2Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,3Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.


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Usage

Some of the activities one might engage in to ‘blow off steam’ could be considered negative or unacceptable but the idiom is often used as an explanation for such behavior as in “he’s just blowing off steam.”

Examples Of Use

“I really need to go out tonight and blow off some steam.”

“These kids have been cooped up in the house for days. They need to go out and let off steam.”

“Why is Alan yelling at everyone?” “He’s just blowing off steam.”

“You know you can call me anytime you need to blow off steam. I’m always here for you.”

“I’m going to hit the gym and let off steam. I’ve been working too much lately.”

Origin

Used since the 1800s.

This idiom alludes to the literal meaning of blowing off steam, referring to a steam engine releasing excess steam through a valve to ease the pressure.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms]. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.
2. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
3. Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.