“炎上 (えんじょう, enjou)” or its verb “炎上する” indicate when someone, especially famous people come under fire due to their inappropriate statement or behaviour. For instance, a lot of politicians and celebrities 炎上する (come under fire) when they make racist or sexist statements. Non-famous people can also be the cause of 炎上 by posting inflammatory/inappropriate contents on the internet. For instance, teens not of legal age often do 炎上 by uploading the photos of themselves drinking alcohol on social media.
炎上 as a Publicity Stunt
Some people cause 炎上 on purpose to attract the public’s attention for their benefits. This type of 炎上 is called “炎上商法 (えんじょう しょうほう)”, where “商法 (しょうほう)” means “commercial strategy”. For instance, some celebrities are often criticised for committing 炎上商法 by posting provocative posts on social media to increase their followers. Another example is when a company advertises its product using provocative or sexual lines.
Original Meaning and Word Structure
Originally, 炎上 means “something is intensely burning/on fire”, as in “近所の家が炎上している” meaning “The house in my neighbourhood is on fire”. The first Kanji “炎” means “fire/flame” and the second kanji “上” means “above/up”, and these two characters are combined to depict a big fire climbing up to the sky.
The celebrity said, “Cheating on one’s wife is a necessary evil” and became under fire.
The aeroplane failed to land, and then crashed and burned intensely.
Synonyms: 叩かれる (be hit/ be criticised)
Synonyms in English: under fire
Related words and phrases: 炎上商法 ：intentionally get oneself under fire to make a publicity stunt