Definition of touchpaper in US English:



  • 1A strip of paper impregnated with niter, for lighting fireworks or explosive substances.

    • ‘And he can light the blue touchpaper on a Roman Candle, but it may be impossible to tell whether the ensuing two second fizzing is the intended special effect or a product malfunction.’
    • ‘At the time the first touchpaper was scheduled to be lit, cars were still queueing bumper to bumper on Netherhampton Road.’
    • ‘Light the blue touchpaper, and retire to a safe distance.’
    • ‘They delight in allowing their children within close proximity of devices that will burn their faces off quicker than you can say 'light the blue touchpaper and stand well back'.’
    1. 1.1 Used in reference to an action that is likely to cause anger or controversy.
      ‘it was an intervention by the umpire that lit the blue touchpaper’
      • ‘Mentioning it to members of the 1958 squad was lighting the blue touchpaper of 45-year-old grievances.’
      • ‘I like to think that I am not unduly irritated by life, but the last week has finally lit my personal touchpaper.’
      • ‘Any proposed variation of a ban immediately ignites a toxic touchpaper.’
      • ‘The blue touchpaper has been lit and things will explode in Question Time today.’
      • ‘Asked to look to the future Adu briefly hesitates, perhaps wary of relighting the promotional touchpaper, yet can't resist touching on the 2006 World Cup in Germany.’
      • ‘It was those last words that finally lit the blue touchpaper.’
      • ‘The Prime Minister had lit the touchpaper and retired to Downing Street, job done.’
      • ‘If we follow this route, I think we can both say, with considerable justification, that we have exhausted every conceivable avenue prior to lighting the litigation touchpaper.’
      • ‘He may not be around to light the blue touchpaper at future internationals, but fireworks lie ahead.’
      • ‘By contrast, now I just sit there and wait for the magic word to set off the blue touchpaper.’