dumpster fire

[ duhmp-ster fahyer ]
/ ˈdʌmp stər ˌfaɪər /
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a fire in a dumpster, or a large bin for refuse.
Slang. a situation, person, or thing that is disastrous and out of control:The team is turning into the biggest dumpster fire in the league.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does dumpster fire mean?

Dumpster fire is a negative slang term for a situation that’s completely disastrous.

It typically implies that such a situation is out of control and is very unlikely to be fixed. It’s often used to refer to situations that are disastrous due to extreme incompetence or negligence.

The term can also be applied to people, groups, or things that are in the midst of utter chaos or irredeemable failure, as in They haven’t won a single game—they’re a complete dumpster fire this year. It’s especially used in a mocking way. 

This figurative sense of dumpster fire is based on its literal meaning: a fire inside a dumpster, which is a large trash container designed to be lifted and emptied by a garbage truck.

A literal dumpster fire is often caused accidentally, and the same goes for the figurative sense of the term—it’s usually used to refer to disastrous situations that weren’t intended to be that way. Some dumpster fires are self-contained, while others can spread to things around them (this also holds true for both the literal and figurative senses of the term).

The slang sense of dumpster fire implies that the situation was bad to begin with (a pile of garbage) and has now become even worse (a pile of garbage on fire). This might also imply that it’s not worth fixing.

Example: Poor attendance, technical difficulties, offensive gaffes, and food poisoning—the conference was a dumpster fire.

Where does dumpster fire come from?

The first records of the phrase dumpster fire referring to a literal fire in a dumpster come from the 1950s, but its literal sense is not a common term like forest fire or house fire. The name of the large trash container we now call a dumpster was originally a trademarked term. It was introduced in the 1930s by the Dempster Brothers Company as the Dempster Dumpster. The origin of the slang use of dumpster fire is unknown, but it began to gain popularity around the late 2000s.

Dumpster fire can be used to refer to people (such as a scandal-causing politician), things (such as a particularly inept sports team), or situations (such as a failing business’s finances). The term is used negatively to indicate that something is a catastrophic mess that is getting more and more out of control. Dumpster fire is similar to the slang term train wreck in that some people get morbid enjoyment out of watching the disaster get worse.

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What are some synonyms for dumpster fire?

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

What are some words that often get used in discussing dumpster fire?

How is dumpster fire used in real life?

The slang use of dumpster fire is always used very negatively. It’s often used in a mocking way.



Try using dumpster fire!

Which of the following words is a synonym of dumpster fire?

A. fiasco
B. mistake
C. hurdle
D. challenge

How to use dumpster fire in a sentence