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Idioms about burn

Origin of burn

First recorded 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 )

synonym study for burn

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.


Other definitions for burn (2 of 2)

[ burn ]
/ bɜrn /

noun Scot. and North England.
a brook or rivulet.
Also bourn, bourne.

Origin of burn

First recorded before 900; Middle English burn(e), bourn(e), Old English burna, burne “stream, brook”; cognate with Gothic brunna, Dutch born, bron, German Brunnen, Old Norse brunnr “spring, well”
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does burn mean?

To burn means to be on fire, as in Nomar burned all the wood in the campfire.

To burn literally means to consume fuel in a way that gives off heat, gases, and light, as with a fire, or to contain a fire, as a fireplace does.

Burn also has many figurative senses related to its literal sense. For example, if you feel pain from a wound, you might say it burns. Something that stings can also be said to burn. And something that gives off a glow, such as a lamp, also burns.

As well, if you’re very angry, you might say you’re burning. And if you have very strong feelings, either positive or negative, you might say you’re burning with those feelings.

Finally a burn is a burned place, such as where there was a fire, or an injury to your skin. A first-degree burn usually turns the skin red and causes swelling. A second-degree burn could include blisters, while a third-degree burn causes damage to the tissue beneath the skin.

Example: He cleaned up so many sticks from his backyard that he decided to burn them instead of taking them to the dumpster.

Where does burn come from?

The first records of the term burn come from before the year 900. It ultimately comes from the Old English beornan and bærnan.

Burn is also used in many phrases and contexts that really have nothing to do with burning. One meaning is “to be taken advantage of” or “to be beaten,” as in You got burned on that deal.

Burn has two past tenses. Both burned and burnt are acceptable spellings, but especially in North America, burnt is preferred for description, as in burnt toast.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to burn?

  • burnable (adjective)
  • half-burned (adjective)
  • nonburnable (adjective)
  • unburnable (adjective)
  • well-burned (adjective)

What are some synonyms for burn?

What are some words that share a root or word element with burn

What are some words that often get used in discussing burn?

How is burn used in real life?

Burn is a very common word used in relation to a physical fire as well as figurative senses.

Try using burn!

Is burn used correctly in the following sentence?

At the end of the school year, Sean likes to burn all his school papers in a fire pit.

How to use burn in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for burn (1 of 2)

/ (bɜːn) /

verb burns, burning, burnt or burned

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

British Dictionary definitions for burn (2 of 2)

/ (bɜːn, Scottish bʌrn) /

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

Scientific definitions for burn

[ bûrn ]

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.

Other Idioms and Phrases with burn


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.