I have read this verb in newspapers many times where it is used mostly as synonym of restart and it is collocates with relationship.For example if a couple break up and then if they become couple again as far as I know they rekindle the relationship..

But somehow when I mentioned this verb in this sense to my American friend, she struggled to understand at first and then she said we can use it like start a fire. Then I said probably it is used in metaphorical way when it is collocated with the word relationship.

So I would like to say especially native Americans, do you use the word rekindle in the sense I mention?Is it mostly a British word?



  • 2
    Rekindle is used commonly in reference to love and romance in the US, probably more often than to physical relight a fire; I'm genuinely surprised she was confused. It's not the best method, but if you type "rekindle" into Google's search box, several of the automatic search suggestions offer the metaphorical usage, and many of those lead to American pages. Feb 15, 2015 at 22:14
  • By “collocation” do you mean “phrase” or “idiom”? “Collocation” as linguists use the term is specialized jargon, not common knowledge. It's the sort of jargon term that begs for misunderstanding. Different linguists define it differently and confusingly: “Use of the term collocation…varies depending on the writer’s research priorities. [Some] refer to one type of word combination…others adopt it as a broadly inclusive term…[etc.]” [ here]
    – Ben Kovitz
    Feb 15, 2015 at 22:51
  • Collocation is fine here. There's no need to replace it with idiom or phrase, both of which are also specialized terms in linguistics with different definitions in different contexts.
    – user230
    Feb 17, 2015 at 9:01

3 Answers 3


Searching the Corpus of Global Web-Based English (GloWbE) for [rekindle] * [relationship]:

  United States     27 results (out of 253,536,242 total words)
  Great Britain     31 results (out of 255,672,390 total words)

We find that it's used on both sides of the Atlantic with roughly the same frequency.

I'm an American English speaker, and I expect all American English speakers to be familiar with this phrase. I'm not sure why your friend was confused.

  • Anything for which fire is a metaphor can be rekindled. Love and hate burn hotter than relationship, so are slightly more idiomatic
    – djs
    Jul 26, 2021 at 23:07

I wouldn't say it's mostly British, and would have thought it was reasonably common in American. (I certainly got it instantly.) Perhaps the Amazon Kindle e-reader has begun replacing the verb in people's minds?

  • Whenever I see the word kindle used in a novel, I am reminded of the Amazon product (that I am probably using to read the novel). Maybe rekindle has a meaning re: the Amazon product? ;)
    – user6951
    Feb 15, 2015 at 21:52
  • No, the Amazon product doesn't use "rekindle" for anything specialized. I believe they have used it in the usual metaphoric definition, though, in some of their ads. "Rekindle a love of reading" or some-such.
    – A.Beth
    Feb 16, 2015 at 22:15

It is an English word, including an American English one.

A way to check and see if something is used in American English is to check an American English dictionary, or one configured to give American English uses.

Whereas dictionaries are not geared toward specific collocations, the first two dictionaries listed below give example sentences with analogous collocations. One could check Ngrams for current usage of a specific collocation.

ODO US English definition

M-W dictionary definition

American Heritage dictionary definition

However, most good dictionaries will specify whether something is an AmE usage or an BrE usage, including the

Cambridge dictionary public school, which is totally different in the UK and the US.

On second thought the Cambridge AmE dictionary does not give both meanings.

Although both the M-W For Learners and American Heritage does. As does the ODO of British and International English, the three I cited at first. In fact the ODO AmE also gives both definitions.

So it seems Cambridge chooses (at least sometimes) to particularize, while others tend to generalize. I prefer the Cambridge for many of its definitions, but around here the ODO seems more popular.

Fag is another word that has BrE-specific (if not AmE-specific meanings), and all the dictionaries listed here touch on both.

  • 1
    Thank you.I do exactly what you advice when I am confused if a word is used in the US but dictionaries mostly do not explain how common is the US, if a word is mostly British and . Actually my question is about a collation if you read it.
    – Mrt
    Feb 15, 2015 at 21:15
  • 2
    And when it comes to Google Ngram I am also skeptical about it because for example a word could seem to be common because there is a very famous song which has the same name.
    – Mrt
    Feb 15, 2015 at 21:17
  • 1
    @Murat I think you are wise to be skeptical of careless use of Ngram to answer questions about usage and meaning. In this case, though, if there's a famous song with the same name, then the phrase is probably well known.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Feb 15, 2015 at 22:54

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