A Spark can Start a Great Fire – Proverb Meaning and Expansion of idea


The proverb ‘A spark can start a great fire’ means that even a very small action can initiate great things. A little spark generated during a storm in a forest, can initiate a fire big enough to engulf the whole forest. There had been many forest fires in history that have been started by just a miniscule spark. This is the literal meaning of the proverb, but from a broader perspective, it also means that unimaginably big developments can be brought by small actions.

Expansion of idea

A spark can start a great fire is a proverb stating that even a big and devastating fire can be started by just a single spark. Evidently, a spark is too small as compared to a large fire; nevertheless, it could be a reason for it. History is replete with incidents when a large and uncontainable forest fire had been started by a spark generated by rubbing of tree branches, or amber left by a visitor.

In a broader perspective, the proverb also means that a big change is often initiated by a small action or perhaps a thought. Many uprisings in history and civilian revolts were started by small incidents.

In some contexts, the spark here could also be compared to motivation. A small talk of motivation or an act that encourages someone to act could just be enough to move him/her to act towards achieving their dreams.

Short Stories on ‘A Spark can Start a Great Fire’

A well-written story themed around the proverb ‘A spark can start a great fire’ will give you a deeper understanding of the proverb. I am writing below a couple of fresh stories themed around the proverb.

Short Story 1

The hostel warden of a prestigious college was very strict. In fact, he was so strict that no one, on a student, dared to question the state of services. Students ate the food they were served in the mess and never complained about the fault water cooler and poor cleanliness. They were afraid to approach the warden who would rather blast them his own rhetoric.

One day a new boy came to the hostel. He was very persuasive, someone who refused to settle down for less than what he is entitled to. He didn’t like the mess food, neither the cleanliness nor other services. In this regard, he wrote an application to the warden and had it delivered. As usual, no action was taken; rather the warden called the boy in his office and mocked him, throwing the letter back at him.

The boy coolly took the letter and walked out of the warden’s office. What he did next proved to be the game-changer in the coming months. He just stuck the letter on the hostel’s notice board and asked fellow hostellers to sign underneath if they support the changes. Initially, students were hesitant but with time the letter received hundreds of signatures. The warden tried to remove the letter but was apprehended by the students.

Hostellers together took the letter to the college’s dean and have the warden removed. Warden had no idea that a small letter could bring such a big change. He should have known that a small spark can start a big fire.

Short Story 2

Once, a group of students was out on a picnic with a couple of their teachers. They stayed in the woods overnight and had erected a tent. They cooked the food by collecting sticks and lighting it. They had planned to let the fire burning the whole night to keep animals away, just in case if some decide to explore.

One boy among them was of a very careless kind. For him, nothing was a big deal and everything was just too small for him to act on. They enjoyed and ate the food, chatted around the fire for a couple of hours and then went to sleep in the tent. Our careless boy was given the responsibility of keeping the fire burning the whole night and then dousing it, first thing in the morning.

Somehow the boy managed to keep the fire lit the whole night but as usual, became careless in the morning. When they left in the morning there was still some amber burning. The boy knew it but neglected it as he thought that it was too small to act on and few sparks will extinguish by themselves. He was wrong. By the time they reached back their homes, around the afternoon, they heard the news that some careless put off fire had caused a huge damage to the forest in which they were touring at exactly the same spot.

The boy got a call from his teacher who asked whether he had doused the fire completely. The boy couldn’t answer as he knew that it was his mistake. The teacher told the boy that “son, you should have known that a spark can start a great fire.


A well thought out examples based on a proverb will give you a deeper understanding of it. Keeping this in mind I have given below some example sentences themed on the proverb – ‘A spark can start a great fire.’ The examples are fresh and have real-life references.

“Authorities say that the huge fire in the forest was started by a careless tourist throwing a lighted cigarette on the ground; true that a spark can start a great fire.”

“As a child, Mohit was often mocked by his classmates due to his stammering habit. Today he is a fine orator who credits his success to the criticism he had faced. Someone has rightly said that a spark can start a great fire.”

“Many big revolutions in history had been started by very small incidents. This is a perfect example of the proverb that a spark can start a great fire.”

“The famous salt march or the Dandi march in the history of Indian freedom struggle was started by just one appeal of Mahatma Gandhi. Indeed, a spark can start a great fire.”

“A single, howsoever small act of disrespect towards the God of any religion could start a communal riot of mammoth proportion. History is replete with such incidents that prove that a spark can start a great fire.”


The proverb is credited to a 13th-century Italian poet Dante Alighieri. He was a statesman and a political theorist born in Florence in central Italy. In Italy, he is often referred to as the supreme poet. Divine Comedy is one of his notable works.

Not exactly the phrase but one with a similar meaning appears in one of the literary works of Dante. The phrase reads – “Great fire can follow a small spark: there may be better voices after me to pray to Cyrrha’s god for aid – that he may answer.”

Since then the proverb is in popular use and has been used by writers from time to time.


The importance of the proverb is that it teaches us to be cautious of even small changes as they might just be an indication of a bigger change. It also warns us to not neglect small developments and take necessary preventive measures, before they grow bigger.

The proverb also motivates us to take small steps towards our goal without hesitation and fear. Small steps might just be the beginning of a bigger change. Big changes begin with small actions, the proverb teaches us.