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Idioms about fire

Origin of fire

First recorded before 900; (noun) Middle English; Old English fȳr; cognate with Old Norse fūrr, German Feuer, Greek pŷr (see pyro-); (verb) Middle English firen “to kindle, inflame,” derivative of the noun; see igneous


firer, nouncoun·ter·fire, noun, verb (used without object), coun·ter·fired, coun·ter·fir·ing.re·fire, verb, re·fired, re·fir·ing.un·fired, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is fire?

Fire is what happens when a material is ignited and combined with oxygen, resulting in combustion. This results in light, heat, and a visible effect that usually appears as orange or yellow flames.

Fire typically requires three ingredients: heat, fuel (something to burn), and oxygen.

Fire is hard to describe since it’s different from the solid, liquid, and gaseous states of matter we’re used to observing (fire is usually a mixture of hot gases, but sometimes it’s a plasma, depending on what’s burning). But you know it when you see it: if you’ve ever lit a match or candle or burned wood in a fireplace, you’ve created fire.

We describe an instance of fire as a fire, as in a fire in the fireplace or a house fire.

If something is burning or consumed by fire, we say it is on fire, as in The stove is on fire.

Fire can also be used metaphorically, such as to refer to intensity or extreme passion, as in The fire in my heart. It’s also commonly used in many idioms and expressions (such as fight fire with fire and playing with fire), and, more recently, as a slang term meaning awesome (as in Those shoes are fire).

As a verb, fire commonly means to discharge a gun or to dismiss someone from a job.

Fire has many other, more specific meanings as both a noun and a verb, and most of them are related in some way to literal fire.

Example: The boss fired Dave after he fired a starter pistol inside the office, causing the ceiling to catch on fire.

Where does fire come from?

The first records of the word fire come from before 900. As a noun, it comes from the Old English fȳr. Fire is related to the Old Norse fūrr and German Feuer, which come from the Greek pŷr (the origin of the word part pyro-, as in pyrotechnics, and the word pyre, as in funeral pyre). As a verb, fire comes from the Middle English firen, which was derived from the noun and means “to kindle or inflame.”

Fire has fascinated humans for as long as we have known about it. At one time, fire was thought to be one of the four substances (the others being earth, air, and water) that made up everything in the universe. It has been used for cooking, warmth, and other practical uses for at least hundreds of thousands of years.

We often specify types of fires by what is on fire, such as house fire and forest fire, or what has caused or is fueling the fire, as in grease fire. Things that involve preventing or putting out fires or fire safety typically have the word in their name, such as in firefighter, fire department, fire truck, fire extinguisher, fire escape, and fire drill.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to fire?

  • firer (noun)
  • counterfire (noun, verb)
  • refire (verb)
  • unfired (adjective)

What are some synonyms for fire?

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

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

How is fire used in real life?

The word fire is very commonly used, particularly in its literal sense.



Try using fire!

Which of the following things is NOT one of the three ingredients typically required for a fire?

A. heat
B. oxygen
C. water vapor
D. fuel

How to use fire in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for fire

/ (faɪə) /

sentence substitute
a cry to warn others of a fire
the order to begin firing a gun, artillery, etc

Derived forms of fire

fireable, adjectivefireless, adjectivefirer, noun

Word Origin for fire

Old English fӯr; related to Old Saxon fiur, Old Norse fūrr, Old High German fūir, Greek pur
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with fire


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