between two fires, under physical or verbal attack from two or more sides simultaneously: The senator is between two fires because of his stand on the bill.
    build a fire under, Informal. to cause or urge to take action, make a decision quickly, or work faster: If somebody doesn't build a fire under that committee, it will never reach a decision.
    catch fire,
    1. Also catch on become ignited; burn: The sofa caught fire from a lighted cigarette.
    2. to create enthusiasm: His new book did not catch fire among his followers.
    fight fire with fire, to use the same tactics as one's opponent; return like for like.
    go through fire and water, to brave any danger or endure any trial: He said he would go through fire and water to win her hand.
    hang fire,
    1. to be delayed in exploding, or fail to explode.
    2. to be undecided, postponed, or delayed: The new housing project is hanging fire because of concerted opposition.
    miss fire,
    1. to fail to explode or discharge, as a firearm.
    2. to fail to produce the desired effect; be unsuccessful: He repeated the joke, but it missed fire the second time.
    on fire,
    1. ignited; burning; afire.
    2. eager; ardent; zealous: They were on fire to prove themselves in competition.
    play with fire, to trifle with a serious or dangerous matter: He didn't realize that insulting the border guards was playing with fire.
    set fire to,
    1. to cause to burn; ignite.
    2. to excite; arouse; inflame: The painting set fire to the composer's imagination.
    Also set on fire.
    take fire,
    1. to become ignited; burn.
    2. to become inspired with enthusiasm or zeal: Everyone who heard him speak immediately took fire.
    under fire,
    1. under attack, especially by military forces.
    2. under censure or criticism: The school administration is under fire for its policies.

Origin of fire

before 900; (noun) Middle English; Old English fȳr; cognate with Old Norse fūrr, German Feuer, Greek pŷr (see pyro-); (v.) Middle English firen to kindle, inflame, derivative of the noun
Related formsfir·er, nouncoun·ter·fire, noun, verb (used without object), coun·ter·fired, coun·ter·fir··fire, verb, re·fired, re·fir·ing.un·fired, adjective
Can be confuseddownsize fire lay off rightsize terminate Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for miss fire



the state of combustion in which inflammable material burns, producing heat, flames, and often smoke
  1. a mass of burning coal, wood, etc, used esp in a hearth to heat a room
  2. (in combination)firewood; firelighter
a destructive conflagration, as of a forest, building, etc
a device for heating a room, etc
something resembling a fire in light or brilliancea diamond's fire
a flash or spark of or as if of fire
  1. the act of discharging weapons, artillery, etc
  2. the shells, etc, fired
a burst or rapid volleya fire of questions
intense passion; ardour
liveliness, as of imagination, thought, etc
a burning sensation sometimes produced by drinking strong alcoholic liquor
fever and inflammation
a severe trial or torment (esp in the phrase go through fire and water)
catch fire to ignite
draw someone's fire to attract the criticism or censure of someone
hang fire
  1. to delay firing
  2. to delay or be delayed
no smoke without fire the evidence strongly suggests something has indeed happened
on fire
  1. in a state of ignition
  2. ardent or eager
  3. informalplaying or performing at the height of one's abilities
open fire to start firing a gun, artillery, etc
play with fire to be involved in something risky
set fire to or set on fire British
  1. to ignite
  2. to arouse or excite
set the world on fire, British set the Thames on fire or Scot set the heather on fire informal to cause a great sensation
under fire being attacked, as by weapons or by harsh criticism
(modifier) astrology of or relating to a group of three signs of the zodiac, Aries, Leo, and SagittariusCompare earth (def. 10), air (def. 20), water (def. 12)


to discharge (a firearm or projectile) or (of a firearm, etc) to be discharged
to detonate (an explosive charge or device) or (of such a charge or device) to be detonated
(tr) informal to dismiss from employment
(tr) ceramics to bake in a kiln to harden the clay, fix the glaze, etc
to kindle or be kindled; ignite
(tr) to provide with fueloil fires the heating system
(intr) to tend a fire
(tr) to subject to heat
(tr) to heat slowly so as to dry
(tr) to arouse to strong emotion
to glow or cause to glow
(intr) (of an internal-combustion engine) to ignite
(intr) (of grain) to become blotchy or yellow before maturity
vet science another word for cauterize
(intr) Australian informal (of a sportsman, etc) to play well or with enthusiasm

sentence substitute

a cry to warn others of a fire
the order to begin firing a gun, artillery, etc
Derived Formsfireable, 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

Word Origin and History for miss fire



c.1200, furen, figurative, "arouse, excite;" literal sense of "set fire to" is from late 14c., from fire (n.). The Old English verb fyrian "to supply with fire" apparently did not survive into Middle English.

The sense of "sack, dismiss" is first recorded 1885 in American English (earlier "throw (someone) out" of some place, 1871), probably from a play on the two meanings of discharge: "to dismiss from a position," and "to fire a gun," fire in the second sense being from "set fire to gunpowder," attested from 1520s. Of bricks, pottery, etc., from 1660s. Related: Fired; firing. Fired up "angry" is from 1824. Firing squad is attested from 1904.



Old English fyr, from Proto-Germanic *fuir (cf. Old Saxon and Old Frisian fiur, Old Norse fürr, Middle Dutch and Dutch vuur, Old High German fiur, German Feuer), from PIE *perjos, from root *paewr- (cf. Armenian hur "fire, torch," Czech pyr "hot ashes," Greek pyr, Umbrian pir, Sanskrit pu, Hittite pahhur "fire").

Current spelling is attested as early as 1200, but did not fully displace Middle English fier (preserved in fiery) until c.1600.

PIE apparently had two roots for fire: *paewr- and *egni- (cf. Latin ignis). The former was "inanimate," referring to fire as a substance, and the latter was "animate," referring to it as a living force (see water).

Fire applied in English to passions, feelings, from mid-14c. Meaning "action of guns, etc." is from 1580s. Firecracker is American English coinage for what is in England just cracker, but the U.S. word distinguishes it from the word meaning "biscuit." Fire-engine attested from 1680s. The figurative expression play with fire "risk disaster" is from 1887; phrase where's the fire? "what's the hurry?" first recorded 1924.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

miss fire in Medicine




To generate an electrical impulse. Used of a neuron.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with miss fire

miss fire

Fail to achieve the anticipated result, as in Recycling cardboard seemed like a good idea but it missed fire. First recorded in 1727, this phrase originally described a firearm failing to go off and has been used figuratively since the mid-1800s.


In addition to the idioms beginning with fire

  • fire away
  • fire off
  • fire on all cylinders
  • fire up

also see:

  • add fuel to the fire
  • ball of fire
  • baptism of fire
  • catch fire
  • caught in the cross-fire
  • draw fire
  • fat is in the fire
  • fight fire with fire
  • get on (like a house afire)
  • hang fire
  • hold one's fire
  • hold someone's feet to the fire
  • irons in the fire
  • light a fire under
  • line of fire
  • miss fire
  • no smoke without fire
  • on fire
  • open fire
  • out of the frying pan into the fire
  • play with fire
  • set on fire
  • set the world on fire
  • spread like wildfire
  • trial by fire
  • under fire
  • where's the fire

Also see underfiring.

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