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a state, process, or instance of combustion in which fuel or other material is ignited and combined with oxygen, giving off light, heat, and flame.
a burning mass of material, as on a hearth or in a furnace.
the destructive burning of a building, town, forest, etc.; conflagration.
heat used for cooking, especially the lighted burner of a stove:
Put the kettle on the fire.
Greek fire.
flashing light; luminous appearance.
brilliance, as of a gem.
burning passion; excitement or enthusiasm; ardor.
liveliness of imagination.
fever or inflammation.
severe trial or trouble; ordeal.
exposure to fire as a means of torture or ordeal.
strength, as of an alcoholic beverage.
a spark or sparks.
the discharge of firearms:
enemy fire.
the effect of firing military weapons:
to pour fire upon the enemy.
British. a gas or electric heater used for heating a room.
Literary. a luminous object, as a star:
heavenly fires.
to set on fire.
to supply with fuel; attend to the fire of:
They fired the boiler.
to expose to the action of fire; subject to heat.
to apply heat to in a kiln for baking or glazing; burn.
to heat very slowly for the purpose of drying, as tea.
to inflame, as with passion; fill with ardor.
to inspire.
to light or cause to glow as if on fire.
to discharge (a gun).
to project (a bullet or the like) by or as if by discharging from a gun.
to subject to explosion or explosive force, as a mine.
to hurl; throw:
to fire a stone through a window.
to dismiss from a job.
Veterinary Medicine. to apply a heated iron to (the skin) in order to create a local inflammation of the superficial structures, with the intention of favorably affecting deeper inflammatory processes.
to drive out or away by or as by fire.
to take fire; be kindled.
to glow as if on fire.
to become inflamed with passion; become excited.
to shoot, as a gun.
to discharge a gun:
to fire at a fleeing enemy.
to hurl a projectile.
Music. to ring the bells of a chime all at once.
(of plant leaves) to turn yellow or brown before the plant matures.
(of an internal-combustion engine) to cause ignition of the air-fuel mixture in a cylinder or cylinders.
(of a nerve cell) to discharge an electric impulse.
fire away, Informal. to begin to talk and continue without slackening, as to ask a series of questions:
The reporters fired away at the president.
fire off,

to discharge (as weapons, ammunition, etc.):
Police fired off canisters of tear gas.
to write and send hurriedly:
She fired off an angry letter to her congressman.

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,

Also, catch on fire. to become ignited; burn:
The sofa caught fire from a lighted cigarette.
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,

to be delayed in exploding, or fail to explode.
to be undecided, postponed, or delayed:
The new housing project is hanging fire because of concerted opposition.

miss fire,

to fail to explode or discharge, as a firearm.
to fail to produce the desired effect; be unsuccessful:
He repeated the joke, but it missed fire the second time.

on fire,

ignited; burning; afire.
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,

to cause to burn; ignite.
to excite; arouse; inflame:
The painting set fire to the composer’s imagination.

Also, set on fire.
take fire,

to become ignited; burn.
to become inspired with enthusiasm or zeal:
Everyone who heard him speak immediately took fire.

under fire,

under attack, especially by military forces.
under censure or criticism:
The school administration is under fire for its policies.

Contemporary Examples

fire department officials are not saying what they suspect Burkhart used to ignite the fires.
Los Angeles Serial-Arson Suspect Charged Christine Pelisek January 2, 2012

fire takes hold,” he told his faithful, “only where the Sabbath is desecrated.
Israel’s Inferno Fania Oz-Salzberger December 4, 2010

With the drought and fire came high winds, dust storms, record temperatures, and ramped up evaporation levels.
The Texas Drought Seen Firsthand from the Eyes of Ranchers Malcolm Jones August 8, 2012

He might be a catch; he does describe the fire as “pretty cool.”
Tiny Hamsters Eat Tiny Burritos, Emma Stone Lip Syncs, and More Viral Videos The Daily Beast Video May 2, 2014

But though the Irish percentage was down to about 20 percent, they continued to dominate the police and fire departments.
When New York City Hit Its Stride Allen Barra July 16, 2014

Historical Examples

Rather than relinquish her, however, he would have set Rome on fire.
The Three Cities Trilogy, Complete Emile Zola

Of course, we all like to play with fire, but I always put it out before it can spread.
Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Had there been, he probably would have invited the visitor to walk to the fire and partake.
Two Boys in Wyoming Edward S. Ellis

He had his revolver on the fellow in the instant, and yet he held his fire.
Way of the Lawless Max Brand

She believed that both the smoke and fire were caused by the serpent.
Welsh Folk-Lore Elias Owen

the state of combustion in which inflammable material burns, producing heat, flames, and often smoke

a mass of burning coal, wood, etc, used esp in a hearth to heat a room
(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 brilliance: a diamond’s fire
a flash or spark of or as if of fire

the act of discharging weapons, artillery, etc
the shells, etc, fired

a burst or rapid volley: a 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

to delay firing
to delay or be delayed

no smoke without fire, the evidence strongly suggests something has indeed happened
on fire

in a state of ignition
ardent or eager
(informal) playing 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
(Brit) set fire to, set on fire

to ignite
to arouse or excite

(informal) set the world on fire, (Brit) set the Thames on fire, (Scot) set the heather on fire, 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 Sagittarius Compare earth (sense 10), air (sense 20), water (sense 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
(transitive) (informal) to dismiss from employment
(transitive) (ceramics) to bake in a kiln to harden the clay, fix the glaze, etc
to kindle or be kindled; ignite
(transitive) to provide with fuel: oil fires the heating system
(intransitive) to tend a fire
(transitive) to subject to heat
(transitive) to heat slowly so as to dry
(transitive) to arouse to strong emotion
to glow or cause to glow
(intransitive) (of an internal-combustion engine) to ignite
(intransitive) (of grain) to become blotchy or yellow before maturity
(vet science) another word for cauterize
(intransitive) (Austral, 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

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.

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.

fire (fīr)
v. fired, fir·ing, fires
To generate an electrical impulse. Used of a neuron.


To discharge someone from a job; dismiss, usually with prejudice; can, sack (1887+)
To throw something with great force: The big left-hander fired a fastball down the middle (1910+)
To ask or utter with bluntness and vehemence: The panel fired questions at me and I soon wilted (1850s+)

Related Terms

ball of fire, hold someone’s feet to the fire, on the fire, pull something out of the fire, sure-fire

(1.) For sacred purposes. The sacrifices were consumed by fire (Gen. 8:20). The ever-burning fire on the altar was first kindled from heaven (Lev. 6:9, 13; 9:24), and afterwards rekindled at the dedication of Solomon’s temple (2 Chr. 7:1, 3). The expressions “fire from heaven” and “fire of the Lord” generally denote lightning, but sometimes also the fire of the altar was so called (Ex. 29:18; Lev. 1:9; 2:3; 3:5, 9). Fire for a sacred purpose obtained otherwise than from the altar was called “strange fire” (Lev. 10:1, 2; Num. 3:4). The victims slain for sin offerings were afterwards consumed by fire outside the camp (Lev. 4:12, 21; 6:30; 16:27; Heb. 13:11). (2.) For domestic purposes, such as baking, cooking, warmth, etc. (Jer. 36:22; Mark 14:54; John 18:18). But on Sabbath no fire for any domestic purpose was to be kindled (Ex. 35:3; Num. 15:32-36). (3.) Punishment of death by fire was inflicted on such as were guilty of certain forms of unchastity and incest (Lev. 20:14; 21:9). The burning of captives in war was not unknown among the Jews (2 Sam. 12:31; Jer. 29:22). The bodies of infamous persons who were executed were also sometimes burned (Josh. 7:25; 2 Kings 23:16). (4.) In war, fire was used in the destruction of cities, as Jericho (Josh. 6:24), Ai (8:19), Hazor (11:11), Laish (Judg. 18:27), etc. The war-chariots of the Canaanites were burnt (Josh. 11:6, 9, 13). The Israelites burned the images (2 Kings 10:26; R.V., “pillars”) of the house of Baal. These objects of worship seem to have been of the nature of obelisks, and were sometimes evidently made of wood. Torches were sometimes carried by the soldiers in battle (Judg. 7:16). (5.) Figuratively, fire is a symbol of Jehovah’s presence and the instrument of his power (Ex. 14:19; Num. 11:1, 3; Judg. 13:20; 1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:10, 12; 2:11; Isa. 6:4; Ezek. 1:4; Rev. 1:14, etc.). God’s word is also likened unto fire (Jer. 23:29). It is referred to as an emblem of severe trials or misfortunes (Zech. 12:6; Luke 12:49; 1 Cor. 3:13, 15; 1 Pet. 1:7), and of eternal punishment (Matt. 5:22; Mark 9:44; Rev. 14:10; 21:8). The influence of the Holy Ghost is likened unto fire (Matt. 3:11). His descent was denoted by the appearance of tongues as of fire (Acts 2:3).

fire away
fire off
fire on all cylinders
fire up


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