in irons,
    1. Nautical.(of a sailing vessel) unable to maneuver because of the position of the sails with relation to the direction of the wind.
    2. Nautical.(of a towing vessel) unable to maneuver because of tension on the towing line.
    3. Also into shackles or fetters.
    irons in the fire, matters with which one is immediately concerned; undertakings; projects: He had other irons in the fire, so that one failure would not destroy him.
    pump iron, to lift weights as an exercise or in competition.
    strike while the iron is hot, to act quickly when an opportunity presents itself.

Origin of iron

before 900; Middle English, Old English īren (noun and adj.), perhaps < *īsren, metathesized from īsern, variant of īsen; compare Old Saxon, Old High German, Old Norse īsarn, Gothic eisarn < Germanic *īsarnam, perhaps < Celtic; compare Gaulish Ysarno-, Iserno- (in place names), Old Breton hoiarn, Welsh haearn, Old Irish íarn
Related formsi·ron·less, adjectivei·ron·like, adjectiveun·i·roned, adjectivewell-i·roned, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for iron

Contemporary Examples of iron

Historical Examples of iron

  • Only don't let the first woman that comes ridin' herd get her iron on you.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • He crumpled the poster and inserted it beneath the lid of his iron stove.

  • Something that Uncle Jasper had said recurred to him, something about iron dust.

  • The iron loop at the end was to put one's foot into when one wanted to load it.


    William J. Locke

  • "I wisht to God that some iron dust would work its way into your soul," he said.

British Dictionary definitions for iron



  1. a malleable ductile silvery-white ferromagnetic metallic element occurring principally in haematite and magnetite. It is widely used for structural and engineering purposes. Symbol: Fe; atomic no: 26; atomic wt: 55.847; valency: 2,3,4, or 6; relative density: 7.874; melting pt: 1538°C; boiling pt: 2862°CSee also steel, cast iron, wrought iron, pig iron Related adjectives: ferric, ferrous Related prefix: ferro-
  2. (as modifier)iron railings
any of certain tools or implements made of iron or steel, esp for use when hota grappling iron; a soldering iron
an appliance for pressing fabrics using dry heat or steam, esp a small electrically heated device with a handle and a weighted flat bottom
any of various golf clubs with narrow metal heads, numbered from 1 to 9 according to the slant of the face, used esp for approach shotsa No. 6 iron
an informal word for harpoon (def. 1)
US slang a splintlike support for a malformed leg
great hardness, strength, or resolvea will of iron
astronomy short for iron meteorite
strike while the iron is hot to act at an opportune moment


very hard, immovable, or implacableiron determination
very strong; extremely robustan iron constitution
cruel or unyieldinghe ruled with an iron hand
an iron fist a cruel and unyielding attitude or approachSee also velvet (def. 6)


to smooth (clothes or fabric) by removing (creases or wrinkles) using a heated iron; press
(tr) to furnish or clothe with iron
(tr) rare to place (a prisoner) in irons
See also iron out, irons
Derived Formsironer, nounironless, adjectiveironlike, adjective

Word Origin for iron

Old English irēn; related to Old High German īsan, Old Norse jārn; compare Old Irish īarn
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 iron

Old English isærn (with Middle English rhotacism of -s-) "the metal iron; an iron weapon," from Proto-Germanic *isarnan (cf. Old Saxon isarn, Old Norse isarn, Middle Dutch iser, Old High German isarn, German Eisen) "holy metal" or "strong metal" (in contrast to softer bronze) probably an early borrowing of Celt. *isarnon (cf. Old Irish iarn, Welsh haiarn), from PIE *is-(e)ro- "powerful, holy," from PIE *eis "strong" (cf. Sanskrit isirah "vigorous, strong," Greek ieros "strong").

Right so as whil that Iren is hoot men sholden smyte. [Chaucer, c.1386]

Chemical symbol Fe is from the Latin word for the metal, ferrum (see ferro-). Meaning "metal device used to press or smooth clothes" is from 1610s. The adjective is Old English iren, isern. To have (too) many irons in the fire "to be doing too much at once" is from 1540s. Iron lung "artificial respiration tank" is from 1932.


c.1400, irenen, "to make of iron," from iron (n.). Meaning "press clothes" (with a heated flat-iron) is recorded from 1670s. Related: Ironed; ironing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

iron in Medicine




A lustrous, malleable, ductile, magnetic or magnetizable metallic element. Atomic number 26.
A dietary supplement or medication containing an iron salt, such as ferrous sulfate.


Made of or containing iron.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

iron in Science




A silvery-white, hard metallic element that occurs abundantly in minerals such as hematite, magnetite, pyrite, and ilmenite. It is malleable and ductile, can be magnetized, and rusts readily in moist air. It is used to make steel and other alloys important in construction and manufacturing. Iron is a component of hemoglobin, which allows red blood cells to carry oxygen and carbon dioxide through the body. Atomic number 26; atomic weight 55.845; melting point 1,535°C; boiling point 2,750°C; specific gravity 7.874 (at 20°C); valence 2, 3, 4, 6. See Periodic Table. See Note at element.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with iron


In addition to the idioms beginning with iron

  • iron hand
  • iron out
  • irons in the fire, too many

also see:

  • pump iron
  • strike while the iron's hot
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.