burning question


burning question (idiom)
/ˈbɜrnɪŋ ˈkwɛstʃən/


  • an urgent or pressing query that requires immediate attention.
  • a question of great significance that is currently being discussed.
  • a topic that is of critical importance and demands prompt resolution.
  • an issue that sparks intense interest and needs to be addressed quickly.
  • a matter of high importance that is actively debated or considered.

Example Sentences

  1. The burning question after the town hall meeting was how the new policy would affect local businesses.
  2. With the final exam approaching, the burning question for every student was what topics would be covered.
  3. During the interview, the burning question was whether she would get the promotion.
  4. As the team faced a deadline, the burning question was how they would complete the project on time.
  5. After the announcement of the merger, the burning question on everyone’s mind was how it would impact their jobs.

Origin and History

The idiom “burning question” has a rich and multifaceted history, with several theories and beliefs about its origin. This phrase, which denotes an urgent or pressing query, has evolved over centuries and carries both metaphorical and idiomatic significance.

Ancient Communication

One theory traces the origins of “burning question” back to ancient times when fire was used as a means of communication. In these eras, lighting a fire on a hill or other high place served as a signal to convey urgent messages over long distances. This signaling method imbued the burning concept with a sense of urgency and importance, laying the groundwork for its later figurative use.

Middle English Influence

Another important historical thread connects the idiom to Middle English. The word “brenning,” meaning scorching or hot, was used in the mid-14th century to describe something powerful and ardent. By the 19th century, “burning” had become synonymous with excitement and urgency. Newspapers of that era often used phrases like “Burning Question: Will War Break Out?” to capture readers’ attention and highlight pressing issues.

Religious and Philosophical Contexts

Some scholars suggest that religious and philosophical contexts may have influenced the phrase. Inquisitions and theological debates metaphorically described critical and urgent questions about faith and doctrine as “burning,” reflecting their importance and the fervent desire for resolution.

Usage in Literature and Media

The idiom gained further traction through its use in literature and media. For example, in the 19th century, politicians and writers like Benjamin Disraeli used the term to describe pressing public issues, cementing its place in the English lexicon. Today, the idiom is widely used in various contexts, from political debates to everyday conversations, to indicate questions of significant concern that demand immediate answers.


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