There are 2 main definitions of burn in English:

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burn 1

Pronunciation: /bərn/

verb (past and past participle burned or chiefly British burnt /bərnt/)

1 [no object] (Of a fire) flame or glow while consuming a material such as coal or wood: a fire burned and crackled cheerfully in the grate
More example sentences
  • And warning signs include soot stains on or above appliances, coal or wood fires burning slowly or going out and everyone at home feeling ill at the same time.
  • There was a bonfire burning in the fire pit and camp chairs set up.
  • When we came back, we could just see a great cloud of smoke and in the evening the red glow of fire still burning.
be on fire, be alight, be ablaze, blaze, go up, go up in smoke, be in flames, be aflame;
smolder, glow
1.1(Of a candle or other source of light) be alight: a light was burning in the hall
More example sentences
  • Without the flash, the solitary candle burning inside was the source of light, and the photo really shows up the carving and the fact that it is a Halloween pumpkin.
  • The arsonist is believed to have used two large candles from the altar - which he lit from smaller candles burning in a sand-filled bowl - to carry out the attack.
  • It is as if there is a small candle burning in the room: bring a bigger light into the room and the small candle simply loses all significance.
1.2Be or cause to be destroyed by fire: he watched his restaurant burn to the ground
More example sentences
  • Grams finally got us all in there, and much to my surprise, the walls did not ignite and burn to the ground.
  • So every hut we find that has a bunker we are ordered to burn to the ground.
  • Africa could safely burn to the ground and beneath before they would go back there again.
set fire to, set on fire, set alight, light, ignite, touch off;
informal torch
1.3 [with object] Damage or injure by heat or fire: I burned myself on the stove
More example sentences
  • Miraculously he never burned himself or set the house on fire.
  • Ricky burned himself trying to make toast and got a blister on his hand, but he felt he was managing.
  • Mrs Dhariwal said to her son: ‘I have burned myself and I want to kill myself.’
scorch, singe, sear, char, blacken, brand, sizzle;
2 [no object] (Of a person, the skin, or a part of the body) become red and painful through exposure to the sun: my skin tans easily but sometimes burns
More example sentences
  • As summer came on, his skin was burning or peeling, white or red; he never browned.
  • An added problem is the ‘Celtic’ skin type which is common in Scotland: fairer skins burn more easily, and burns mean more skin cancer risk.
  • He also commented on the lack of moisturiser as his skin burned, peeled and then peeled again in the blazing sun.
2.1Feel or cause to feel sore, hot, or inflamed, typically as a result of illness or injury.
Example sentences
  • All were in bad temper and soaking wet, eyes burning and sore from the oceans' salt as they sat along the disheveled bank.
  • My hips were sore and my thighs burned from the repeated kicking.
  • You can relieve dry mouth, which may cause your mouth to burn or feel sore, by drinking plenty of water.
2.2 (be burning with) Be possessed by (a desire or an emotion): Martha was burning with curiosity
More example sentences
  • Although Indira was burning with the desire to pursue what she had glimpsed of the sage's philosophy, practical matters had intervened - in their usual, overwhelming manner.
  • The shop was on his way to work, and as he walked the same route every day, by the second day that he noticed the vest in the window, he was burning with desire.
  • ‘The truth is the whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance on South Carolina,’ he had written on Christmas Eve, 1864.
be consumed by/with, be eaten up by/with, be obsessed by/with, be tormented by/with, be beside oneself with
3 [with object] Use (a type of fuel) as a source of heat or energy: a diesel engine converted to burn natural gas
More example sentences
  • Using energy, mainly by burning fossil fuels, produces waste carbon dioxide.
  • Currently we get most of our energy from burning fossil fuels.
  • Most backup diesel generators burn distillate fuel oil, the same fuel used for heating and for aircraft.
consume, use up, expend, go/get through, eat up;
3.1(Of a person) convert (calories) to energy: the speed at which your body burns calories
More example sentences
  • When you drink water, your body burns extra calories.
  • This can disrupt the work of the thyroid gland, which regulates how our bodies burn calories.
  • Regular exercise increases the rate your body burns calories.
4 [with object] Produce (a compact disc or DVD) by copying from an original or master copy.
Example sentences
  • You can purchase and download hardware and software MPEG Encoders to burn a DVD.
  • Only one measure can be used against widespread cloning of prerecorded audio media by burning CDRs: copy protection!
  • C-Cube, Henry adds, has been in the digital business since the first DVDs were burned.
5 [no object, with adverbial of direction] informal Drive very fast: he burned past us like a maniac
More example sentences
  • We burned up the highways and dirt roads all over Erath County.
  • They were going into Andover for the day, so they quickly burned past us.
  • I burned down the road as fast as I could go and sure enough I found a nice little out of the way hotel.


1An injury caused by exposure to heat or flame: he was treated in the hospital for burns to his hands
More example sentences
  • Jake, who was eight months old at the time, suffered heat burns rather than direct flame injuries and was in intensive care for two weeks.
  • Post-mortem tests showed the boy had suffered serious head injuries and burns to nearly all of his body.
  • The flames were soon doused but the patient suffered burns to an arm.
1.1A mark left on something as a result of being burned: the carpet was covered with cigarette burns
More example sentences
  • It can leave the back marked with burns and hickeys.
  • A burn marked his coat, but there didn't seem to be any bleeding of burns on his skin.
  • Bullet marks and burns could be seen all over the hull.
1.2 [with modifier] A feeling of heat and discomfort on the skin caused by friction, typically by a rope or razor: a smooth shave without razor burn
More example sentences
  • Cleo was dumped next to him, her hands and feet bound with coarse rope that caused friction burns on her skin.
  • Without the proper equipment, a worker risks injuries such as abrasions, or friction burns.
  • Medical evidence was given to the inquest that death was caused by asphyxia secondary to compression with fractures of the ribs and friction burns.
2Consumption of a type of fuel as an energy source: natural gas produces the cleanest burn of the lot
More example sentences
  • It also asserts that the fuel burn is 21-22 per cent lower per seat for the longer-range 777s.
  • Best economy fuel burns at the above settings are 14 and 11 gph, respectively.
  • The airline captain records a fuel burn of 9 gph per engine on his Geronimo, seemingly irrespective of altitude.
2.1A firing of a rocket engine in flight.
Example sentences
  • The burn will slow the spacecraft's speed by 102 meters per second.
  • Were it not for the engine burn, the spacecraft would have accelerated far more and continued on to the outer reaches of the Solar System.
  • The US Delta launch vehicle upper stage now performs such a burn to depletion.
3North American & Australian/New Zealand An act of clearing vegetation by burning, intentionally or by accident.
Example sentences
  • In the period prior to the bush fire danger period, landholders are still responsible for any burning activity including pile burns or broad acre burns.
  • This is the time to be planning for quick removal of the residue and an early burn to allow good regrowth going into the winter.
  • They coordinated and conducted an airfield burn of 160 acres, which reduced the safe habitat for small vermin.
3.1An area of land cleared by burning.
Example sentences
  • She says that their land extends to about an acre, with a burn running through it.
  • Harsh, high-elevation burn areas provide excellent seedbeds for this species.
  • There can be too much of a good thing, however - burn areas with heavier snow packs are susceptible to avalanche.
4A hot, painful sensation in the muscles experienced as a result of sustained vigorous exercise: work up a burn
More example sentences
  • You know that painful burn in your muscles when you're exercising intensely, that's because of a build-up of lactic acid, right?
  • If you're one of those souls who is blessed with gym discipline or a YMCA membership, then you know how satisfying the lingering burn of energized muscles can be.
  • So the coach of course is not experiencing the pain of the athlete who's running, for example and who's now in a state of oxygen debt and experiencing muscle burn and so forth.
5 short for burn rate.



be burned at the stake

historical Be executed by being burned alive in public, typically for heresy or witchcraft.
Example sentences
  • Joan lifted a siege and went on to offer the hope of freedom for her country before being burned at the stake for alleged witchcraft.
  • If she came out alive she was burned at the stake.
  • You know, back in the 1400s, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for heresy.

burn one's bridges

Do something that makes it impossible to return to an earlier state.
Example sentences
  • The young Culpeper had irrevocably burnt his bridges as far as returning to Cambridge and completing his training to be a Minister was concerned; the study of medicine was likewise denied to him.
  • Stabbing me right then was the thought that we had burnt our boats on this quest to return to my roots (my great-grandfather had left Italy for England at the height of the industrial revolution) after 25 years of London life.
  • A move to Coventry during the 1995-96 season fell flat for Jess, leading to a return back to Aberdeen before ‘burning his bridges’ with his outspoken comments last year.

burn the candle at both ends

Go to bed late and get up early, especially to get work done.
Example sentences
  • I've been burning the candle at both ends since at least early summer, and it's time to take a breather.
  • Then again, it may be that he associates the night-time feel of lightbulbs with those early, art student days of burning the candle at both ends and wallowing in the newness of creativity.
  • In my mad attempt to get everything done I had been burning the candle at both ends, staying up too late and getting up too early.

burn the midnight oil

Read, study, or work late into the night.
Example sentences
  • However, she may decide to burn the midnight oil with some more reading.
  • This is a community recreation center, complete with television and even a computer room where just a year ago people would be burning the midnight oil, literally, reading and writing.
  • I was burning the midnight oil yesterday night to finish this.

burn (or lay) rubber

informal Drive very fast.
Example sentences
  • I may not be exactly the fastest thing on two wheels to burn rubber around here; but it's great fun.
  • Three vehicles, three distinct ways to burn rubber.
  • If you want to "lay rubber" in a Marauder its as easy as giving it a little brake torque.

go for the burn

informal Push one’s body to the extremes when doing physical exercise.
Example sentences
  • Her passion for junk food and her loathing of most forms of go for the burn exercise was what gave her the body of an elephant, and Mia a body to die for!
  • It's not only unnecessary to go for the burn, it's unwise; too-vigorous exercise raises the risk of stopping altogether.
  • I like going for the burn and feeling like I've had a good old workout.

money burns a hole in someone's pocket

Someone has a strong urge to spend money as soon as they receive it.
Example sentences
  • Please email me or post a comment with your advice before my PayPal money burns a hole in my pocket.
  • If money burns a hole in your pocket, you may need to take a course in managing money.
  • Whoever said that money burns a hole in your pocket was talking about me.

slow burn

informal A state of slowly mounting anger or annoyance: the medical community’s shrugging acceptance is fueling a slow burn among women
More example sentences
  • When I reach retirement age, and there isn't anything left, no doubt I'll look back on those buses with a slow burn of annoyance, as I fry up a can of cat food.
  • He slunk back a few inches, then remembered Gail, with a slow burn of anger that swept through his soul and demanded vengeance.
  • Instead of the choppy war scenes that escalate the tension towards the end of the play, there is a slow burn, Macbeth waiting ominously on stage throughout as his world spins and collapses around him.

Phrasal verbs


burn something down (or burn down)

(Of a building or structure) destroy or be destroyed completely by fire.
Example sentences
  • Later, the shelf caught on fire and nearly burned the whole building down.
  • You know, fire will burn a building down, but water will seek its level and touch everything on a specific piece of ground.
  • It stopped a fire in seconds which would have burnt a building down in two minutes,’ he added.

burn something in/into

Brand or imprint by burning: designs are burned into the skin figurative a childhood incident that was burned into her memory
More example sentences
  • Other efforts to burn an image into consumers' psyche is last year's rollout of Bolivar, named for South American liberator Simon Bolivar.
  • We also have a chest of tools and do some pyrography, burning images into wood, and we also do woodturning.
  • The TV series ‘Baretta’ made Robert Blake a household name and burned his tough-guy image into the public's brain.
Photography 2.1 Expose one area of a print more than the rest: the sky and bottom of the picture needed substantial burning in
More example sentences
  • Over that I place custom shaped 'holes' to suit the area to burn in.
  • Mann has dodged the negative, or let the background burn in.
  • When you burn in something, you're darkening an area on a photograph.

burn something off

Remove (a substance) using a flame: using a blowtorch to burn off the paint
More example sentences
  • The heat burned the paint off the walls and, Chicca realized later, most of the hair from his head and face.
  • However, at 10 am, a man with a blow torch is burning the lines off and at 3pm, the lines have all gone.
  • But two days later, workers were back to burn the yellow paint off the road, after it was discovered they had been painted in error.

burn out

Be completely consumed and thus no longer aflame: the candle in the saucer had burned out figurative his political ambitions had burned themselves out
More example sentences
  • By 8am, the fire has burned itself out and heated the inside to about 400 degrees.
  • He said the fires had been blazing for so long that some of them had actually burned themselves out for lack of oxygen.
  • Astronomers believe it is the super-compressed heart of an old star, which has burnt out and become a 1,500-kilometre wide lump of crystallised carbon.
4.1Cease to function as a result of excessive heat or friction: the clutch had burned out
More example sentences
  • The first successful light bulbs marketed by Edison in the 1880s produced so much heat that they burnt out very rapidly.
  • Measures like this ensure the chip will not burn out as it heats up from use.
  • Three days later he got a second SMS saying that she had got as far as Parys but her clutch had burnt out and could he let her have R800 more for the repairs.

burn (oneself) out

Ruin one’s health or become completely exhausted through overwork.
Example sentences
  • She had died at the age of 45 from exhaustion, burnt out by the hardships of life.
  • But for a burned out cop like Mitch, it was just what the proverbial doctor had ordered.
  • Rather than improving technique, burned out dancers may report debilitating fatigue, loss of enthusiasm, and injuries.

burn someone out

Make someone homeless by destroying their home by fire: they were burned out of their homes
More example sentences
  • They tried to blow her up, to burn her out, to foreclose on her mortgage.
  • When we moved four years ago, we were in desperate need of a place because we had been burned out of our old house.
  • She was burned out of her house and her relatives killed in front of her.

burn something out

Completely destroy a building or vehicle by fire, so that only a shell remains.
Example sentences
  • He was abducted by four masked men and driven to the remote townland of Lyracrumpane, where he was beaten up and left stranded after his car was burnt out.
  • Members of a family have to live in three different areas of the city, all because their home is burnt out, declared Alderman Pat Kennedy to the city council.
  • Several bins on the street are being destroyed every weekend, people are getting up on Sunday morning and finding that their property has been burnt out, one angry resident told the Kildare Nationalist.

burn up

1(Of a fire) produce brighter and stronger flames.
Example sentences
  • There are three major fires burning up there with smoke going high into the sky, and just beside us here, an oil tanker is well on fire.
  • He quickly pulled the match head across the strip, a flame quickly burning up on that very tip.
  • ‘I think we may get the fire to burn up again,’ he added, throwing some logs upon the embers.
2(Of an object entering the earth’s atmosphere) be destroyed by heat.
Example sentences
  • Most meteorites travelling towards earth burn up in the atmosphere, but it's estimated that on average, one does make it through each week.
  • When you considering how many meteors burn up on entering our atmosphere it's obvious that if even the tiniest little thing goes wrong with the heat protection then it's curtains.
  • The Foton-M2 service module was hereafter separated from the re-entry module and, as planned, burnt up in Earth's atmosphere.

burn someone up

North American informal Make someone angry: his thoughtless remarks really burn me up
More example sentences
  • Rather dumbfounded, I said, ‘What burns you up?’
  • Nothing burns me up more than to see a rich, white, educated defendant walk out of the courthouse on bail when a minority defendant who did the same thing is under the jail.
  • But anyway, that kind of thing burned me up.

burn something up

Example sentences
  • To gain weight, do the opposite - eat more calories than you burn up with physical activity.
  • So we managed about 300 calories per hour - about half of what we burned up running.
  • We knew we needed more than simple water to replace the calories and minerals we were burning up and sweating out during training.
10.1Use up the calories or energy provided by food, rather than converting these to fat: in the typical Western diet, all the energy in protein is burned up daily
More example sentences
  • When we overload our bodies with food, even if we can burn it up without gaining weight, we create a chronic condition of low-grade toxemia where each cell becomes a storage unit for unusable, toxic molecules.
  • Sometimes, as I'm sitting and working, I can practically hear the cortisol coursing through me, and I think that if I don't keep making an effort to burn it up and off, I'll continue down the road to fruit-loopitude.
  • We take in calories when we eat and drink, and burn them up in daily activity.


Old English birnan 'be on fire' and bærnan 'consume by fire', both from the same Germanic base; related to German brennen.

  • The burn meaning ‘to be on fire’ and the Scottish word for a small stream are not connected, although both are Old English. To burn the midnight oil, ‘to read or work late into the night’, and to burn the candle at both ends, ‘to go to bed late and get up early’, both recall the days before gas and electricity, when houses were lit by candles and oil lamps. To burn your boats (in Britain also to burn your bridges) derives from military campaigns. Burning the boats or bridges that a force used to reach a particular position would mean that they had destroyed any means of escape or retreat: they had no choice but to fight on.

Words that rhyme with burn

adjourn, astern, Berne, churn, concern, discern, earn, fern, fohn, kern, learn, Lucerne, quern, Sauternes, spurn, stern, Sterne, tern, terne, Traherne, turn, urn, Verne, yearn

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: burn

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There are 2 main definitions of burn in English:

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burn 2

Pronunciation: /bərn/


chiefly Scottish & Northern English
A small stream; a brook.
Example sentences
  • Make sure you are casting where saltwater meets the fresh of a burn, stream or river.
  • Rivers and burns became torrents and turned the colour of pus.
  • The hill burns are torrents of water and the main river a chocolate flood.


Old English burna, burn(e), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch bron and German Brunnen 'well'.

  • The burn meaning ‘to be on fire’ and the Scottish word for a small stream are not connected, although both are Old English. To burn the midnight oil, ‘to read or work late into the night’, and to burn the candle at both ends, ‘to go to bed late and get up early’, both recall the days before gas and electricity, when houses were lit by candles and oil lamps. To burn your boats (in Britain also to burn your bridges) derives from military campaigns. Burning the boats or bridges that a force used to reach a particular position would mean that they had destroyed any means of escape or retreat: they had no choice but to fight on.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: burn

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