burn one's bridges (behind one). bridge1(def 26).
    burn oneself out, to exhaust one's energy, ideas, etc., through overwork or intemperance: They feared that he would burn himself out or break down.
    burn the midnight oil, to work, study,etc., until late at night: to burn the midnight oil before final exams.
    burn the/one's candle at both ends, to be excessively active or immoderate, as by leading an active social life by night and a busy work life by day: You can't burn the candle at both ends and hold onto a job.

Origin of burn

before 900; Middle English bernen, brennen, Old English beornan (intransitive), (cognate with Gothic, Old High German brinnan), and Old English bærnan (transitive), (cognate with Gothic brannjan, Old High German brennen)
Related formsburn·a·ble, adjectivehalf-burned, adjectivenon·burn·a·ble, adjectiveun·burn·a·ble, adjectiveun·burned, adjectivewell-burned, adjective

Synonyms for burn

1. flame. 3. tingle, glow. 16. char, toast, brown, tan.

Synonym study

16. Burn, scorch, sear, singe refer to the effect of fire or heat. To burn is to consume, wholly or in part, by contact with fire or excessive heat: to burn leaves. Scorch implies superficial or slight burning, resulting in a change of color or in injury to the texture because of shriveling or curling: to scorch a dress while ironing. Sear refers especially to the drying or hardening caused by heat: to sear a roast of meat. Singe applies especially to a superficial burning that takes off ends or projections: to singe hair; singe the pinfeathers from a chicken.



noun Scot. and North England.

a brook or rivulet.
Also bourn, bourne.

Origin of burn

before 900; Middle English burne, bourne, Old English burna, brunna brook; cognate with Gothic brunna, Dutch born, bron, German Brunnen, Old Norse brunnr spring Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for burn

Contemporary Examples of burn

Historical Examples of burn

British Dictionary definitions for burn



verb burns, burning, burnt or burned

to undergo or cause to undergo combustion
to destroy or be destroyed by fire
(tr) to damage, injure, or mark by heathe burnt his hand; she was burnt by the sun
to die or put to death by fireto burn at the stake
(intr) to be or feel hotmy forehead burns
to smart or cause to smartbrandy burns one's throat
(intr) to feel strong emotion, esp anger or passion
(tr) to use for the purposes of light, heat, or powerto burn coal
(tr) to form by or as if by fireto burn a hole
to char or become charredthe potatoes are burning in the saucepan
(tr) to brand or cauterize
(tr) to cut (metal) with an oxygen-rich flame
to produce by or subject to heat as part of a processto burn charcoal
(tr) to copy information onto (a CD-ROM)
astronomy to convert (a lighter element) to a heavier one by nuclear fusion in a starto burn hydrogen
cards, mainly British to discard or exchange (one or more useless cards)
(tr; usually passive) informal to cheat, esp financially
slang, mainly US to electrocute or be electrocuted
(tr) Australian slang to drive fast (esp in the phrase go for a burn)
burn one's bridges or burn one's boats to commit oneself to a particular course of action with no possibility of turning back
burn the candle at both ends See candle (def. 3)
burn one's fingers to suffer from having meddled or been rash


an injury caused by exposure to heat, electrical, chemical, or radioactive agents. Burns are classified according to the depth of tissue affected: first-degree burn : skin surface painful and red; second-degree burn : blisters appear on the skin; third-degree burn : destruction of both epidermis and dermis
a mark, e.g. on wood, caused by burning
a controlled use of rocket propellant, esp for a course correction
a hot painful sensation in a muscle, experienced during vigorous exercisego for the burn!
Australian and NZ a controlled fire to clear an area of scrub
slang tobacco or a cigarette

Word Origin for burn

Old English beornan (intr), bærnan (tr); related to Old Norse brenna (tr or intr), Gothic brinnan (intr), Latin fervēre to boil, seethe




Scot and Northern English a small stream; brook

Word Origin for burn

Old English burna; related to Old Norse brunnr spring, Old High German brunno, Lithuanian briáutis to burst forth
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

Word Origin and History for burn

12c., combination of Old Norse brenna "to burn, light," and two originally distinct Old English verbs: bærnan "to kindle" (transitive) and beornan "to be on fire" (intransitive), all from Proto-Germanic *brennan/*branajan (cf. Middle Dutch bernen, Dutch branden, Old High German brinnan, German brennen, Gothic -brannjan "to set on fire"). This perhaps is from PIE *gwher- "to heat, warm" (see warm (adj.)), or from PIE *bhre-n-u, from root *bhreue- "to boil forth, well up" (see brew (v.)). Related: Burned/burnt (see -ed); burning.

Figuratively (of passions, battle, etc.) in Old English. Meaning "cheat, swindle, victimize" is first attested 1650s. In late 18c, slang, burned meant "infected with venereal disease." To burn one's bridges (behind one) "behave so as to destroy any chance of returning to a status quo" (attested by 1892 in Mark Twain), perhaps ultimately is from reckless cavalry raids in the American Civil War. Slavic languages have historically used different and unrelated words for the transitive and intransitive senses of "set fire to"/"be on fire:" cf. Polish palić/gorzeć, Russian žeč'/gorel.


c.1300, "act of burning," from Old English bryne, from the same source as burn (v.). Until mid-16c. the usual spelling was brenne. Meaning "mark made by burning" is from 1520s. Slow burn first attested 1938, in reference to U.S. movie actor Edgar Kennedy (1890-1948), who made it his specialty.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

burn in Medicine




To undergo or cause to undergo combustion.
To consume or use as fuel or energy.
To damage or injure by fire, heat, radiation, electricity, or a caustic agent.
To irritate or inflame, as by chafing or sunburn.
To become sunburned or windburned.
To metabolize a substance, such as glucose, in the body.
To impart a sensation of intense heat to.
To feel or look hot.


An injury produced by fire, heat, radiation, electricity, or a caustic agent.
A burned place or area.
The process or result of burning.
A stinging sensation.
A sunburn or windburn.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

burn in Science




To be on fire; undergo combustion. A substance burns if it is heated up enough to react chemically with oxygen.
To cause a burn to a bodily tissue.


Tissue injury caused by fire, heat, radiation (such as sun exposure), electricity, or a caustic chemical agent. Burns are classified according to the degree of tissue damage, which can include redness, blisters, skin edema and loss of sensation. Bacterial infection is a serious and sometimes fatal complication of severe burns.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with burn


In addition to the idioms beginning with burn

  • burn at the stake
  • burn down
  • burned up
  • burn in effigy
  • burning question
  • burn into
  • burn off
  • burn one's bridges
  • burn oneself out
  • burn one's fingers
  • burn out
  • burn rubber
  • burn someone up
  • burn the candle at both ends
  • burn the midnight oil
  • burn to a cinder
  • burn up

also see:

  • crash and burn
  • ears are burning
  • fiddle while Rome burns
  • (burn) in effigy
  • money burns a hole in one's pocket
  • money to burn
  • slow burn
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.