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[ahy-ern] /ˈaɪ ərn/
Chemistry. a ductile, malleable, silver-white metallic element, scarcely known in a pure condition, but much used in its crude or impure carbon-containing forms for making tools, implements, machinery, etc. Symbol: Fe; atomic weight: 55.847; atomic number: 26; specific gravity: 7.86 at 20°C.
something hard, strong, rigid, unyielding, or the like:
hearts of iron.
an instrument, utensil, weapon, etc., made of iron.
an appliance with a flat metal bottom, used when heated, as by electricity, to press or smooth clothes, linens, etc.
Golf. one of a series of nine iron-headed clubs having progressively sloped-back faces, used for driving or lofting the ball.
Compare wood1 (def 8).
any of several tools, structural members, etc., of metals other than iron.
the blade of a carpenter's plane.
Slang. a pistol.
a harpoon.
Medicine/Medical. a preparation of iron or containing iron, used chiefly in the treatment of anemia, or as a styptic and astringent.
irons, shackles or fetters:
Put him in irons!
a sword.
of, containing, or made of iron:
an iron skillet.
resembling iron in firmness, strength, color, etc.:
an iron will.
stern; harsh; cruel.
inflexible; unrelenting.
strong; robust; healthy.
holding or binding strongly:
an iron grip.
irritating or harsh in tone:
an iron voice.
verb (used with object)
to smooth or press with a heated iron, as clothes or linens.
to furnish, mount, or arm with iron.
to shackle or fetter with irons.
Metalworking. to smooth and thin the walls of (an object being deep-drawn).
verb (used without object)
to press clothes, linens, etc., with an iron.
Verb phrases
iron out,
  1. to iron or press (an item of clothing or the like).
  2. to remove (wrinkles) from by ironing.
  3. to resolve or clear up (difficulties, disagreements, etc.):
    The problem was ironed out months ago.
in irons,
  1. Nautical. (of a sailing vessel) unable to maneuver because of the position of the sails with relation to the direction of the wind.
  2. Nautical. (of a towing vessel) unable to maneuver because of tension on the towing line.
  3. Also, into irons. in shackles or fetters.
irons in the fire, matters with which one is immediately concerned; undertakings; projects:
He had other irons in the fire, so that one failure would not destroy him.
pump iron, to lift weights as an exercise or in competition.
strike while the iron is hot, to act quickly when an opportunity presents itself.
Origin of iron
before 900; Middle English, Old English īren (noun and adj.), perhaps < *īsren, metathesized from īsern, variant of īsen; compare Old Saxon, Old High German, Old Norse īsarn, Gothic eisarn < Germanic *īsarnam, perhaps < Celtic; compare Gaulish Ysarno-, Iserno- (in place names), Old Breton hoiarn, Welsh haearn, Old Irish íarn
Related forms
ironless, adjective
ironlike, adjective
unironed, adjective
well-ironed, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for iron
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Only don't let the first woman that comes ridin' herd get her iron on you.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • He crumpled the poster and inserted it beneath the lid of his iron stove.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • "I wisht to God that some iron dust would work its way into your soul," he said.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • Something that Uncle Jasper had said recurred to him, something about iron dust.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • The iron loop at the end was to put one's foot into when one wanted to load it.

    Viviette William J. Locke
British Dictionary definitions for iron


  1. a malleable ductile silvery-white ferromagnetic metallic element occurring principally in haematite and magnetite. It is widely used for structural and engineering purposes. Symbol: Fe; atomic no: 26; atomic wt: 55.847; valency: 2,3,4, or 6; relative density: 7.874; melting pt: 1538°C; boiling pt: 2862°C See also steel, cast iron, wrought iron, pig iron related adjectives ferric ferrous related prefix ferro-
  2. (as modifier): iron railings
any of certain tools or implements made of iron or steel, esp for use when hot: a grappling iron, a soldering iron
an appliance for pressing fabrics using dry heat or steam, esp a small electrically heated device with a handle and a weighted flat bottom
any of various golf clubs with narrow metal heads, numbered from 1 to 9 according to the slant of the face, used esp for approach shots: a No. 6 iron
an informal word for harpoon (sense 1)
(US, slang) a splintlike support for a malformed leg
great hardness, strength, or resolve: a will of iron
(astronomy) short for iron meteorite
strike while the iron is hot, to act at an opportune moment
very hard, immovable, or implacable: iron determination
very strong; extremely robust: an iron constitution
cruel or unyielding: he ruled with an iron hand
an iron fist, a cruel and unyielding attitude or approach See also velvet (sense 6)
to smooth (clothes or fabric) by removing (creases or wrinkles) using a heated iron; press
(transitive) to furnish or clothe with iron
(transitive) (rare) to place (a prisoner) in irons
See also iron out, irons
Derived Forms
ironer, noun
ironless, adjective
ironlike, adjective
Word Origin
Old English irēn; related to Old High German īsan, Old Norse jārn; compare Old Irish īarn
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for iron

Old English isærn (with Middle English rhotacism of -s-) "the metal iron; an iron weapon," from Proto-Germanic *isarnan (cf. Old Saxon isarn, Old Norse isarn, Middle Dutch iser, Old High German isarn, German Eisen) "holy metal" or "strong metal" (in contrast to softer bronze) probably an early borrowing of Celt. *isarnon (cf. Old Irish iarn, Welsh haiarn), from PIE *is-(e)ro- "powerful, holy," from PIE *eis "strong" (cf. Sanskrit isirah "vigorous, strong," Greek ieros "strong").

Right so as whil that Iren is hoot men sholden smyte. [Chaucer, c.1386]
Chemical symbol Fe is from the Latin word for the metal, ferrum (see ferro-). Meaning "metal device used to press or smooth clothes" is from 1610s. The adjective is Old English iren, isern. To have (too) many irons in the fire "to be doing too much at once" is from 1540s. Iron lung "artificial respiration tank" is from 1932.


c.1400, irenen, "to make of iron," from iron (n.). Meaning "press clothes" (with a heated flat-iron) is recorded from 1670s. Related: Ironed; ironing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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iron in Medicine

iron i·ron (ī'ərn)

  1. Symbol Fe A lustrous, malleable, ductile, magnetic or magnetizable metallic element. Atomic number 26; atomic weight 55.847; melting point 1,538°C; boiling point 2,860°C; specific gravity 7.874 (at 20°C); valence 2, 3, 4, 6.

  2. A pill or other medication containing iron and taken as a dietary supplement.

Made of or containing iron.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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iron in Science
Symbol Fe
A silvery-white, hard metallic element that occurs abundantly in minerals such as hematite, magnetite, pyrite, and ilmenite. It is malleable and ductile, can be magnetized, and rusts readily in moist air. It is used to make steel and other alloys important in construction and manufacturing. Iron is a component of hemoglobin, which allows red blood cells to carry oxygen and carbon dioxide through the body. Atomic number 26; atomic weight 55.845; melting point 1,535°C; boiling point 2,750°C; specific gravity 7.874 (at 20°C); valence 2, 3, 4, 6. See Periodic Table. See Note at element.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for iron



  1. A motorcycle; motorcycles collectively; Bike, scoot: competing on old British and American iron (1920s+ Motorcyclists)
  2. A car: On this big piece of German iron there's a bumper sticker (1935+)
  3. A firearm, esp a pistol; shooting iron (1775+)
  4. The weights used in weightlifting (1972+)

Related Terms

have brass balls, hot iron, pump iron, shooting iron, waffle-iron

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with iron
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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