I am looking for a phrase or a single word that describes something that burns at a high temperature, like in this sentence:

His temper was volatile and {hot-burning}, like acetone.

"Hot-burning" is the closest thing I can think of, but seems clunky and incorrect.

5 Answers 5


The military has what they refer to as 'incendiary' grenades, which are partially made from white phosphorus and burn at a rather high temperature.

From the U.S. Army:

[AN-M14 TH3 Incendiary Hand Grenade][1]

The AN-M14 TH3 incendiary hand grenade is used to destroy equipment or start fires. It can also damage, immobilize or destroy vehicles, weapons systems, shelters and munitions.

The grenade filler burns at over 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit and can burn through homogenous steel plate – even underwater. Burn time is 30 to 45 seconds.

(emphasis on the last paragraph my own).


There are many good answers but so as to provide a wider gamut I offer

Scorching which means both very hot and in this context harsh it would generally be used to describe a person who is more than likely to verbally "fly off the handle" without using the more generic scathing that would equally fit but does not mean hot.

His temper was volatile and scorching.

It is synonymous with hot-tempered, fierce and fiery q.v.


You could use incandescent: Merriam-Webster defines it as:

Definition of incandescent (Entry 1 of 2)

1 a : white, glowing, or luminous with intense heat

b : strikingly bright, radiant, or clear

c: marked by brilliance especially of expression incandescent wit

d: characterized by glowing zeal : ARDENT incandescent affection

(see here). It’s also idiomatic to say

incandescent with rage

(see here) so would work well when describing somebody’s temper.

To expand on this, one common use of the word incandescent is in relation to light bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs comprise a wire filament (typically made of tungsten specifically because of its very high melting point) through which an electric current is passed in order to heat it to such a high temperature that it emits visible light. According to Wikipedia the filament reaches 2,000 to 3,300 K (3,140 to 5,480 °F), so potentially hotter than a phosphorous incendiary grenade. Admittedly, the bulb is usually filled with inert gas to prevent oxidation, so it is arguable that the filament does not "burn", but it certainly reaches very high temperatures.

My hesitation regarding incendiary is that it is often used in relation to starting a fire (see, for example, the first definition at Dictionary.com:

  1. used or adapted for setting property on fire

rather than relating to objects which necessarily burn at high temperatures. This is particularly true in its metaphorical uses (as in your example): an "incendiary comment" might be delivered coolly and calmly but is nonetheless incendiary in that it provokes, or is designed to provoke, a heated response.

As an afterthought, all this talk of fire makes me realise that another word to describe a hot-burning temper would be fiery:

  1. intensely hot

(Again from Dictionary.com).

  • This is not an answer according to our standards here because it contains no reasoning or explanation in your own words. Please read this advice from SE’ss Community Management team and update this with your content. We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 21:04
  • @tchrist Thanks for the feedback, which I will bear in mind in future. However, my answer goes beyond the dictionary definition by referring to the idiom and its particular relevance to the OP’s reference to temper. Is that not explanation enough?
    – pbasdf
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 21:49
  • Yes, the bottommost part helps. I may not have paid enough attention to that part. Still, it's hardly all that much original content.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 23:14
  • I think this includes sufficient content, and I applaud your inclusion of a linked dictionary definition (plus a further reference and link!), but I support @tchrist's concern about original content: we'd prefer more than just "you could use", "it's idiomatic to say" and "it would work well". For example, you could note that the OP will use the adjective metaphorically, and incandescent with rage is such a common metaphor that it's become idiomatic. I encourage your future contributions :-) Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 0:04

Perhaps you can use the word 'flaring' or 'Searing' .

Searing seems to fit the bill perfectly. It means "extremely hot or intense".

Though there are other words suggested here by others such as inflammable / incandescent / scorching, it is not appropriate to use it in your context because you want to refer to the temper of a person in reference to something that burns and not actually referring to the thing itself which burns.

  • 1
    It is customary on EL&U to include direct quotes from links where the content of the quotes is an important part of the answer. Stack Exchange wants the questions and answers to be accessible in perpetuity, but links sometimes go bad over time. Quoting directly allows the relevant content to be visible even if the link goes bad.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 8:18

I am looking for a phrase or a single word that describes something that burns at a high temperature,

Practically everything burns at high temperature. Perhaps you meant something that will ignite at relatively low temperature (such as acetone in your example). To describe this, you could use any of the following:

easily set on fire: the use of highly flammable materials.
-- New Oxford American Dictionary

Capable of being set afire, burning, or causing a fire.
-- http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/ignitable.html

able to catch fire and burn easily: highly combustible paint thinner.
-- New Oxford American Dictionary

and finally your own:

Evaporates easily. Sometimes also means flammable and/or explosive.
-- http://www.chem.ucla.edu/~harding/IGOC/V/volatile.html

  • 1
    I think the OP meant something that, when ignited, produces a hot flame.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 8:14

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