Do your students ever show a flagrant disregard for school rules? Perhaps you think that England were denied a blatant try in the rugby world cup? Tim Bowen looks at the fiery origins of this word of the week.

“One of the most flagrant breaches of trust in British political history” was how one opposition politician described the British government’s failure to hold a referendum on the EU Treaty. The Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners defines flagrant as ‘done in an obvious way that shows you do not care if you break rules or offend people’. In this respect, flagrant has pretty much the same meaning as blatant. The latter could replace flagrant in the sentence ‘The defendant has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the law’. In a sporting context, however, the two words appear to differ in British and American English. Where in Britain you might say ‘he committed a blatant foul’, in the USA this would be more likely to be described as ‘a flagrant foul’.

Flagrant derives from the same Latin word meaning ‘to burn’ that gives us conflagration. Its modern use appears to derive from the Latin legal term in flagrante delicto, meaning ‘caught in the act’ or ‘caught re-handed’ (usually in the act of being unfaithful to one’s spouse), where the offence is clearly still burning bright.