One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A state of combustion in which a flame is visible (as opposed to smouldering or glowing). Chiefly figurative or in figurative contexts: unconcealed and unrestrained passion, enmity, thoughts, etc. Frequently in "to burst into (an) open flame" and variants.
2A naked flame.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in Brian Melbancke (d. 1600), writer. From open + flame [adjective].
open flame/ˌəʊp(ə)n ˈfleɪm/
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