View synonyms for backfire


[ bak-fahyuhr ]

verb (used without object)

, back·fired, back·fir·ing.
  1. (of an internal-combustion engine) to have a loud, premature explosion in the intake manifold.
  2. to bring a result opposite to that which was planned or expected:

    The plot backfired.

    Synonyms: bomb, flop, boomerang, miscarry

  3. to start a fire deliberately in order to check a forest or prairie fire by creating a barren area in advance of it.


  1. (in an internal-combustion engine) premature ignition of fuel in the intake manifold.
  2. an explosion coming out of the breech of a firearm.
  3. a fire started intentionally to check the advance of a forest or prairie fire.


/ ˌbækˈfaɪə /


  1. (of an internal-combustion engine) to emit a loud noise as a result of an explosion in the inlet manifold or exhaust system
  2. (of an endeavour, plan, etc) to have an unwanted effect on its perpetrator

    his plans backfired on him

  3. to start a controlled fire in order to halt an advancing forest or prairie fire by creating a barren area


  1. in an internal-combustion engine
    1. an explosion of unburnt gases in the exhaust system
    2. a premature explosion in a cylinder or inlet manifold
  2. a controlled fire started to create a barren area that will halt an advancing forest or prairie fire

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Word History and Origins

Origin of backfire1

An Americanism dating back to 1775–85; back 2 + fire

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Example Sentences

Providing the facts decreased concerns about fraud among Democrats, but increased them among Republicans—a classic backfire effect.

From Fortune

Research on the backfire effect is mixed, and some studies suggest it happens rarely.

From Fortune

The Washington Post detailed several other instances of vote-shaming backfires in a 2018 story, including a tweet by Billy Eichner in which he told his bellhop to vote, prompting backlash that forced him to delete the quip.

From Vox

That’s where they’re actually creating the new fire that’s with their burnout, the backfire operation.

Spreading a one-size-fits-all model for girls' education could backfire.

Gerald Ford and the swine flu pandemic that never happened in 1976 is a cautionary tale that government action can backfire.

But with Americans fed up with corporate influence, will the move backfire?

Overall, taking steps to get pregnant quickly is more likely to pay off than it is to backfire.

And when that culture still holds onto sexist views of women, even attempts to rectify this imbalance can backfire.

If you have to burn off the rubbish, do so in small spots at a time, then backfire toward the center.

A handful of men were still grouped around Curt, working until the last moment to spread the backfire as far as possible.

Well, way uptown on Main Street, a motorcycle did backfire right beside us—and we all jumped and had a good laugh over it.

It was unusual for a motorcycle to backfire that close together, it seemed like.

It sounded like a motorcycle backfire at first—the first time we heard it—the first shot.


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