An extremely impressive event or successful outcome: “September will not be any barnburner [for car sales]” (Lee Iacocca).
[Originally 19th-century American English Barn Burner, member of a faction of the Democratic Party of New York that opposed slavery, corporate subsidies, and government-established corporations, in reference to a story of a Dutchman who burned down his own barns in order to rid them of rats (the faction being so called because its opponents considered it willing to completely destroy all institutions in order to rid them of abuses, and because one of the faction's leaders was Martin van Buren, a Dutch American).]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.