Fly off the handle


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Fly off the handle'?

Other phrases with

Lose self control.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Fly off the handle'?

This is an American phrase and it alludes to the uncontrolled way a loose axe-head flies off from its handle. It is first found in print in Thomas C. Haliburton’s The Attaché; or, Sam Slick in England, 1843/4:

“He flies right off the handle for nothing.”

Haliburton was an inventive writer and had a hand in the coining of several commonly used phrases:

Ginger up
Won’t take no for an answer

See other phrases that were coined in the USA.

Trend of fly off the handle in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.