Meaning | Synonyms
- to start a journey
- to start a series of events
- to make someone very angry
- to cause someone to talk about a subject at length
- set off
- start out
- set out
- begin or leave
- get going
- hit the road
- heat out
- We would like to set off for Paris by 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.
- As soon as the alarm went off it set off the dogs. We didn't sleep at all.
- The fact that he cannot remember to take his books to school really sets me off.
- Do not mention the football match. It will set my father off. You will never get him to stop talking.
- At midnight, the manager set off to inspect - how well the employees are working during the night shift.
There are many meanings for the phrase. They all depend on the context in which it is being used. The origin of the meanings is as varied as the use. The most basic meaning relates to setting off a chemical reaction. This has been used since the 1600s.
The phrase has been used to indicate that a new journey is starting since the 1700s. The other meaning "to ignite" has only been used since 1810. This is probably related to the setting off of a stick of dynamite or a bomb.
It can be said that these literal meanings have kept their core definition even when used in a figurative sense.