Definition of fire in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈfʌɪə/


[mass noun]
1A process in which substances combine chemically with oxygen from the air and typically give out bright light, heat, and smoke; combustion or burning: his house was destroyed by fire
More example sentences
  • Suddenly a bright light, fire in fact, flared in front of her face, and a torch was lit.
  • When the kill had been made, Jimmy would light a small heather fire to make a smoke signal.
  • Even at one in the morning, they did not flinch when a roaring explosion of fire and smoke lit the sky behind them.
1.1 [count noun] A destructive burning of something: a fire at a hotel
More example sentences
  • At times the reserve staff will start a ‘cold’ fire that is less destructive than latter fires when the grass becomes dry.
  • Many destructive fires start during such times since potential fire hazards can go unnoticed in the relative darkness.
  • One of the biggest and most destructive of those fires is bearing down on another resort town, Lake Arrowhead in San Bernardino County.
blaze, conflagration, inferno, holocaust, firestorm;
flames, burning, combustion
1.2 [count noun] A collection of fuel, especially coal or wood, burnt in a controlled way to provide heat or a means for cooking: we had a bath in a tin tub by the fire
More example sentences
  • Columns of smoke from cooking fires and controlled burns seemed to dangle groundward from the sky.
  • Conditions were primitive and patients arrived suffering from malaria, crocodile or snake bites, or burns from open cooking fires.
  • Under five sawn-off oil barrels fierce wood fires are burning: on top of them are the woks of giants, each as wide as I can stretch my arms.
1.3 [count noun] (also electric fire or gas fire) chiefly British A domestic heating appliance that uses electricity or gas as fuel: she was freezing and keeping the fire low to save money
More example sentences
  • Similarly, people may gain heat radiating from hot walls, concrete, or sand in a hot environment, as well as from fires or central heating radiators in the cold.
  • The rules apply to all gas appliances, including central heating boilers, water heaters, fires and cookers.
  • He has been undertaking a variety of projects including fitting central heating and fires.
heater, radiator, convector
1.4One of the four elements in ancient and medieval philosophy and in astrology (considered essential to the nature of the signs Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius): [as modifier]: a fire sign
More example sentences
  • Jupiter has rulership in the remaining fire sign Sagittarius, so he is the participating ruler.
  • The Emperor is often associated with Aries, which is a strong and assertive astrological fire sign.
  • Like all the fire signs, Leos are idealistic and don't hold back from expressing their passion.
2A burning sensation: [count noun]: the whisky lit a fire in the back of his throat
More example sentences
  • The minute her hand made contact with the metal a very sharp pain that felt like fire ran up her entire arm.
  • Brad's eyes bugged out and he clutched his face as pain like fire ripped through his head.
2.1Fervent or passionate emotion or enthusiasm: the fire of their religious conviction
More example sentences
  • Tony's fire and enthusiasm has always been a delight, but desire gets you nowhere by itself.
  • It was a great team effort with the lads playing with fire, passion, determination and a tremendous will to win.
  • It was played with passion and fire, by a massive orchestra.
dynamism, energy, vigour, animation, vitality, vibrancy, exuberance, ebullience, zest, elan;
passion, ardour, impetuosity, intensity, zeal, spirit, life, liveliness, verve, vivacity, vivaciousness;
sparkle, scintillation, dash;
enthusiasm, eagerness, gusto;
fervour, fervency, force, potency, vehemence;
inspiration, imagination, creativity, inventiveness, flair
informal pep, vim, zing, go, get-up-and-go, oomph, pizzazz
2.2 literary A glowing or luminous quality: their soft smiles light the air like a star’s fire
3The shooting of projectiles from weapons, especially bullets from guns: a burst of machine-gun fire mortar fire
More example sentences
  • Four men were cut down by machine-gun fire in a gangland-style shooting.
  • The enemy met descending paratroopers with heavy small arms and machinegun fire.
  • However, in the hail of bullets and recoilless rifle fire, over fifty hostages had been killed.
gunfire, firing, sniping, flak, bombardment;
fusillade, volley, barrage, salvo, cannonade
3.1Strong criticism or antagonism: he directed his fire against policies promoting American capital flight
More example sentences
  • Hitler himself was occasionally caught in the line of fire of criticism.
  • Despite drawing critical fire and reactionary ire, the show's back for a second series.
  • While he has taken most of the flak, the main fire should be directed at his partner.
criticism, censure, condemnation, castigation, denunciation, opprobrium, admonishments, vituperation, scolding, chiding;
disapproval, hostility, antagonism, animosity, ill will, enmity
informal flak, brickbats, knocks, raps


[with object]
1Discharge a gun or other weapon in order to propel (a bullet or projectile): he fired a shot at the retreating prisoners they fired off a few rounds
More example sentences
  • The Vulcan works by firing a projectile at high speed into a landmine, ripping it apart without detonating the explosives.
  • The moment came, and with the twelfth shot fired off, the bullets ceased and Johner drew back behind the barricade to reload his gun.
  • In suppressing the Quebec City protests, Canadian police for the first time used the impact weapon Arwen 37 which fires rubber bullets.
launch, shoot, discharge, eject, hurl, throw, send flying, let fly with, loose off, shy, send
North American informal pop
shoot, discharge, let off, trigger, set off, blast;
let fly with
1.1Discharge (a gun or other weapon): another gang fired a pistol through the window of a hostel [no object]: troops fired on crowds
More example sentences
  • Suddenly he heard the distinct noise of a Gatling gun being fired.
  • He studied the simple pistol grip that fired the main gun.
  • Others have suggested that he held on to the pistol while firing the shotgun one-handed.
1.2 [no object] (Of a gun) be discharged: the first gun fired
More example sentences
  • The Gatling guns all fired simultaneously, tearing through the rear of the vehicle and into the trunk.
  • The attack on Rommel's lines started with over 800 artillery guns firing at the German lines.
  • I first hear his machine guns firing and I turn my head in shock.
1.3Direct (questions or statements, especially unwelcome ones) towards someone in rapid succession: they fired questions at me for what seemed like ages
More example sentences
  • However, he still was not content and he fired one more question at me.
  • For a quiz programme, it was quite a short one, with the questions being fired rapidly, and answered with equal speed by the contestants.
  • As the climax approaches, dozens of reporters run onto the stage, firing questions about the scandal in every direction.
1.4 (fire something off) Send a message aggressively: he fired off a letter informing her that he regarded the matter with the utmost seriousness
More example sentences
  • In Tang Hall, 524 people signed objecting letters, and 72 protest letters were fired off to city chiefs.
  • He should do his homework before he fires letters off to your paper.
  • I fired my letter off to the Speaker immediately.
2 informal Dismiss (an employee) from a job: I had to fire men who’ve been with me for years you’re fired!
More example sentences
  • This story apparently came to light when an assistant district attorney was fired for settling the case and not informing his superior.
  • The problem is that the paper has fired this trainee journalist presumably due to public pressure and not, one assumes, some facts of his resume.
  • There is a reluctance on the part of broadcast executives to fire presenters who stir up public outrage - because it sells.
dismiss, discharge, give someone their notice, make redundant, lay off, let go, throw out, get rid of, oust, depose;
Military  cashier
informal sack, give the sack to, axe, kick out, boot out, give someone the boot, give someone the bullet, give someone the (old) heave-ho, give someone the elbow, give someone the push, give someone their marching orders, show someone the door
British informal give someone their cards
3Supply (a furnace, engine, etc.) with fuel: liquefied petroleum gas can fire room heaters
More example sentences
  • We were constructing wooden housing and using charcoal to fire blast furnaces.
  • As a teenager, to help his parents, he'd work double shifts firing engines in rail yards.
  • Because Watt's engine was fired by coal and not water, spinning factories could be located virtually anywhere.
3.1 [no object] (Of an internal combustion engine) undergo ignition of its fuel when started: the engine fired and she pushed her foot down on the accelerator
More example sentences
  • Geordie who was talking to Cameron Shelton brought his conversation to a halt reluctantly, with several false stops like a car that kept on firing after the ignition had been switched on.
  • Getting behind the car, he pushed with gusto until the engine fired.
  • The only practical way to do this is to add some sort of large rocket engine that fires right before impact.
ignite, start, catch, get started, get going
3.2 (usually fire something up) Start (an engine or other device): with a flick of his wrist he fired up the chainsaw he fired up the laptop to find the address of his hostel
More example sentences
  • A few times every spring and summer, Dad would fire up the old station wagon and drive us all to Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.
  • I fired up my DVD player, reclined in my easy chair, and let the film unfurl before me.
  • It rained hard enough to chase us off the lake and back to the cabin to fire up the wood stove.
3.3 archaic Set fire to: I fired the straw
4Stimulate or excite (the imagination or an emotion): India fired my imagination
More example sentences
  • Allende's vow to carry out a peaceful Socialist revolution fired the imagination of millions.
  • They don't fire the imagination or arouse the passions like the aristocratic love of honor.
  • Meera's blind love for Krishna has fired the imagination of many poets.
stimulate, stir up, excite, enliven, awaken, arouse, rouse, draw/call forth, bring out, engender, evoke, inflame, put/breathe life into, animate;
inspire, motivate, quicken, incite, drive, impel, spur on, galvanize, electrify, trigger, impassion
4.1Fill (someone) with enthusiasm: he was fired up for last season’s FA Cup final
More example sentences
  • He was fired with a purpose - to highlight the plight of the poor, suffering masses of India.
  • He was ambitious of a wider effect: he was fired with the possibility that he might work out the proof of an anatomical conception and make a link in the chain of discovery.
  • It is a subject that clearly fires him and he delves enthusiastically into the process of applying for landing slots and the use of cooking oil as a fuel.
activate, motivate, stimulate, actuate, move, drive, rouse, stir, stir up, arouse, energize, animate, fire;
prompt, incite, spark off, influence, impel, spur on, urge, goad
4.2 [no object] (fire up) archaic Show sudden anger: If I were to hear anyone speak slightingly of you, I should fire up in a moment
stir up, arouse, rouse, excite, galvanize, electrify, stimulate, inspire, move, fire the enthusiasm of, fire the imagination of, get going, whip up, inflame, agitate, goad, provoke, spur on, urge, encourage, animate, incite, egg on;
North American  light a fire under
rare inspirit
5Bake or dry (pottery, bricks, etc.) in a kiln: methane gas is being used to fire bricks at a nearby factory
More example sentences
  • The factory uses combined electricity and coal-fired kilns for firing the bricks.
  • Pottery in Texas was fired in a groundhog kiln, so named because part of the kiln is buried in the earth.
  • He can do chores for you, such as firing your pottery.



breathe fire

Be extremely angry: I don’t want an indignant boyfriend on my doorstep breathing fire
More example sentences
  • As a strong police posse stood around watching, district fan club members gathered, forming an angry group and breathing fire at the critical references to their hero.
  • The new health minister entered the ring with the group breathing fire, promising a knock-down, drag-out struggle to the death, vowing there would be no retreat.
  • He joined the race late and went on rightwing talk radio, breathing fire with a slight southern drawl against abortion, divorce

catch fire

Begin to burn: the driver had got out before the car had caught fire
More example sentences
  • He said the assault happened when the contents of an aerosol sprayed at the boy's head caught fire, burning his eyebrows and hair.
  • After the rectory caught fire and burned down in July 1702, he changed his mind.
  • The moth eventually catches fire, burns and dies; consumed by the very mystery it sought.
ignite, catch light, burst into flames, go up in flames, begin to burn
2.1Become interesting or exciting: the show never caught fire
More example sentences
  • Brian Maloney has an interesting post up about Air America's failure to catch fire with listeners.
  • They're just now getting interested in the campaign, but he hasn't caught fire.
  • I think they've really caught fire and really have done something very, very important.

fire and brimstone

The supposed torments of hell: his father was preaching fire and brimstone sermons
More example sentences
  • Viki looked at the two sympathetically, these two have been through hell fire and brimstone to be with each other.
  • It was on the subject he had been assigned by his apparently normal suburban Catholic school: Hell, and all its fire and brimstone.
  • They had hymns, a sermon with fire and brimstone, and all the usual traditional elements.

fire away

informal Used to give someone permission to begin speaking, typically to ask questions: ‘I want to clear up some questions which have been puzzling me.’ ‘Fire away.’
More example sentences
  • He showed up and gave a speech that went: ‘I don't have a speech, but if you have questions, fire away.’
  • And she's going to read from that and then we'll fire away some questions.
  • If any of you reading this article has a question, then fire away!

fire in the (or one's) belly

A powerful sense of ambition or determination: he lacks the fire in his belly necessary to seek the presidency
More example sentences
  • It gives me more determination and a bit of fire in my belly to prove people wrong.
  • He is like a prizefighter determined to show that there is still some fire in his belly.
  • If you have a real fire in your belly about an idea, then you need to carry it through’.

fire on all cylinders

Work or function at a peak level of performance: neither conductor nor orchestra are really firing on all cylinders
More example sentences
  • On a technical level, Scorsese is firing on all cylinders, but emotionally the film is a bit distant.
  • Records are there to be broken and Celtic are firing on all cylinders just now.
  • Last night was a great example of a band firing on all cylinders and while we don't think the new record quite survived the transition to a big label intact, live at least, every song is a killer.

go on fire

Scottish & Irish Begin to burn; catch fire: an oil rig went on fire
More example sentences
  • ‘We are very thankful to everyone who helped at the scene and to whoever sprayed the car with a fire extinguisher and stopped it going on fire,’ reflected Tom McDonald, father of Tomás.
  • It is understood that controlled burning was taking place at the premises around noon but the fire spread to a stack of some 2,000 pallets and as the blaze took hold a 40-foot container filled with cured sheepskin rugs also went on fire.
  • AROUND 360 pupils had to be evacuated from a Bessbrook primary school and sheltered in a nearby church hall after part of the school's roof went on fire.

go through fire (and water)

Face any peril.
Example sentences
  • He has been through a lot, and when a man is tested, you don't know what he's made of until he really goes through fire.
  • The psalmist exemplifies this attitude and praises God, ‘Israel's deliverer,’ who has ‘given life to our souls,’ for although ‘we went through fire and water… you have led us out to refreshment.’
  • You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.

light a fire under

North American Stimulate (someone) to work or act more quickly or enthusiastically: claiming that Congress doesn’t work hard enough is a good way to light a fire under his colleagues
More example sentences
  • They can move mountains with their enthusiasm and energy and light a fire under almost anything.
  • I think that lights a fire under the Senators to do their work quickly.
  • Meanwhile, the musical subculture Tee helped build is lighting a fire under more traditional DJs looking to add some new sounds to their sets.

on fire

In flames; burning: the house was on fire
More example sentences
  • The intrepid dad ran outside to find his van was on fire and flames were spreading to the front of his home.
  • A terraced house was on fire, with smoke and flames pouring from the ground and first floor windows.
  • A log in that unsightly pile writhed as if it were already on fire, though the flames had not quite reached it.
burning, ablaze, blazing, aflame, in flames, flaming, raging, fiery;
alight, lit, lighted, ignited
literary afire
10.1In a state of excitement: Wright is now on fire with confidence
More example sentences
  • The troupe was literally on fire, as they turned, swayed and bent showing amazing skills.
  • The crowd was literally on fire, as couples jived as if there was no tomorrow.
  • After a poor performance in Cork the previous weekend the home side were always going to come out on fire.
ardent, passionate, fervent, intense, excited, aflutter;
eager, enthusiastic

return fire

Retaliate by shooting back: police returned fire and wounded him
More example sentences
  • Troops were attacked by grenades and small arms and returned fire, killing three.
  • A seven-year veteran of the army, he grabs his rifle and returns fire.
  • If there is an extraction of our people, they can return fire to defend themselves.

set fire to

(or set something on fire)
Cause to burn; ignite: the town’s police station was set on fire
More example sentences
  • We have had fires galore and one family was burnt out when someone set a wheelie bin on fire in their porch.
  • He said his own radio had been burned when their vehicle had been set on fire.
  • Miraculously he never burned himself or set the house on fire.
light, ignite, kindle, set fire to, set on fire, set alight, set ablaze, put a match to, touch off, spark off, incinerate
informal torch
literary enkindle, inflame

set the world on fire (also set the world alight)

Do something remarkable or sensational: the film hasn’t exactly set the world on fire the team includes great players who could set the world alight

take fire

Start to burn: petrol from the upturned car flooded across the street and took fire

under fire

Being shot at: observers sent to look for the men came under heavy fire
More example sentences
  • Armies would thus come under fire long before they could even see their enemy, let alone attack his positions.
  • At Pourville, too, the South Saskatchewan Regiment beached without coming under fire.
  • Sgt Cox showed personal courage and skill while under fire from hostile militia.
15.1Being rigorously criticized: the president was under fire from all sides
More example sentences
  • The penny seems to have dropped at head office, which has been under fire from critics for its woeful neglect of its European operations.
  • He is already under fire from critics in his own party for failing to return immediately to Washington once the hijackings got under way.
  • A public schools district plan to teach a bible course is coming under fire from critics.

where's the fire?

informal Used to ask someone why they are in such a hurry or state of excitement: ‘Where’s the fire?’ he demanded, as Sergeant Ellers turned on the siren



Example sentences
  • ‘Well, here we have it all,’ she said, turning to Wolf wearily, ‘the stuff of the common life: an empty pot, a bed of dry leaves, and soon a fireless hearth.’
  • The author cites Victorian novels showing that a smoky hearth symbolized the warmth and comfort of a loving family, while a fireless house indicated destitution.
  • There are many thousand fireless hearth places in Dublin on the bitterest days of winter. 20,000 families live in one-room tenements.


Example sentences
  • We've had air and soft air pistols, air rifles, blank firers and replica guns surrendered, which is an excellent result.
  • More than half of all the guns relinquished in Greater Manchester were ‘airsoft’ weapons like plastic-pellet firers, or ball-bearing guns and replica firearms.
  • A weapons amnesty, covering firearms, imitations, air weapons and blank firers, together with knives and other weapons, was launched across Surrey this week.


Old English fȳr (noun), fȳrian 'supply with material for a fire', of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch vuur and German Feuer.

  • In ancient and medieval thought fire was seen, along with water, air, and earth, as one of the four elements. The word goes back to an ancient root that also gave us the Greek word for fire, pur, the source of pyre (mid 17th century) and pyromaniac (mid 19th century). The phrase fire and brimstone is a traditional description of the torments of hell. In the biblical book of Revelation there is a reference to ‘a lake of fire burning with brimstone’. Brimstone (Old English) is an old word for sulphur, and literally means ‘burning stone’. A fire-and-brimstone sermon is one that gives vivid warning of the dangers of going to hell if you misbehave. To set the world on fire is to do something remarkable. An earlier British version was to set the Thames on fire, and a Scottish one is set the heather on fire. Whichever version is used, it tends to be with a negative implication. In Anthony Trollope's novel The Eustace Diamonds (1873) Lady Glencora is clear about the limitations of ‘poor Lord Fawn’ who ‘will never set the Thames on fire’.

Words that rhyme with fire

acquire, admire, afire, applier, aspire, attire, ayah, backfire, barbwire, bemire, briar, buyer, byre, choir, conspire, crier, cryer, defier, denier, desire, dire, drier, dryer, dyer, enquire, entire, esquire, expire, flyer, friar, fryer, Gaia, gyre, hellfire, hire, hiya, ire, Isaiah, jambalaya, Jeremiah, Josiah, Kintyre, latria, liar, lyre, Maia, Maya, Mayer, messiah, mire, misfire, Nehemiah, Obadiah, papaya, pariah, peripeteia, perspire, playa, Praia, prior, pyre, quire, replier, scryer, shire, shyer, sire, skyer, Sophia, spire, squire, supplier, Surabaya, suspire, tier, tire, transpire, trier, tumble-dryer, tyre, Uriah, via, wire, Zechariah, Zedekiah, Zephaniah

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: fire

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