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red flag (n.)

"a sign of danger or warning," 1777, from red (adj.1) + flag (n.1). A red flag was used as a symbol of defiance in battle on land or sea from c. 1600.

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Definitions of red flag from WordNet

red flag (n.)
a flag that serves as a warning signal;
we didn't swim at the beach because the red flag was up
red flag (n.)
the emblem of socialist revolution;
red flag (n.)
something that irritates or demands immediate action;
doing that is like waving a red flag in front of a bull
From wordnet.princeton.edu