balloon goes up: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘balloon goes up’ mean?

The idiom "balloon goes up" means the situation is becoming serious or tense. It is often used to describe a sudden or unexpected change that brings about significant consequences or problems.

Idiom Explorer

Unexpected Origin

The idiom "balloon goes up" is a phrase with its roots in British English. It is often used to signify the start of a particular event or situation, usually one that is unexpected or challenging.

During World War II, the phrase "the balloon goes up" was commonly used in reference to the moment when a warning balloon was released to alert others of an impending attack or important development. This balloon served as a visual signal, indicating that something significant was about to happen, and it triggered further actions and responses.

Over time, the phrase extended beyond the military context and entered everyday language. Today, it is often used figuratively to describe any situation where a decisive moment or critical point has been reached. When the balloon goes up, events unfold and individuals need to react promptly and effectively.

The balloon slowly goes up into the sky.

The idiom "flame up" is related to the idiom "balloon goes up" in that both phrases suggest the start of an intense or challenging situation. While "balloon goes up" implies the unexpected or sudden nature of the event, "flame up" conveys the idea of a situation becoming heated or explosive.

Similarly, the idiom "on the up" is related to "balloon goes up" as both phrases convey the idea of a situation escalating or reaching a critical point. "On the up" suggests a gradual progression or improvement, while "balloon goes up" implies a more immediate and dramatic change.

The idiom "blimp out" is also related to "balloon goes up" in that both phrases describe a situation becoming inflated or exaggerated. While "balloon goes up" suggests the suddenness of this change, "blimp out" implies a slower and more gradual process.

Lastly, the idiom "boil up" is related to "balloon goes up" in that both phrases imply a situation reaching a boiling point or becoming heated. "Balloon goes up" suggests a sudden and unexpected escalation, while "boil up" conveys a gradual build-up of tension.

The idiom "balloon goes up" originated in British English during World War II and has since been used in a variety of contexts to describe the start of an important and often challenging event. Its military background adds historical significance to its meaning, while its continued usage in contemporary language reflects its adaptability and enduring power as an idiom. Additional idioms like "flame up," "on the up," "blimp out," and "boil up" share similarities to "balloon goes up" in conveying the idea of situations escalating or reaching critical points. These idioms further demonstrate the richness and complexity of language and its ability to capture and communicate a wide range of experiences and emotions.

Example usage


  1. When the company announced its launch of a new product, the balloon went up in the industry, triggering intense competition among the competitors.
  2. The politician made a controversial statement, and as a result, the balloon went up in the media, sparking a heated debate.
  3. After the news about the upcoming merger broke, the balloon went up among the employees, with many expressing concerns about potential job losses.

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