Definition of iron in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈʌɪən/


1 [mass noun] A strong, hard magnetic silvery-grey metal, the chemical element of atomic number 26, much used as a material for construction and manufacturing, especially in the form of steel. Compare with steel. (Symbol: Fe)
Example sentences
  • This shining metal was not raw iron but hard steel, which bent the softer wrought-iron blades of the Gauls.
  • The use of certain essential materials such as iron, steel, copper, and industrial chemicals was either prohibited or restricted.
  • The resulting alloy is stronger and harder than iron or bronze.
made of iron;
ferric, ferrous
1.1Used figuratively as a symbol or type of firmness, strength, or resistance: her father had a will of iron [as modifier]: the iron grip of religion on minority cultures
More example sentences
  • Personally she is my favourite, although I also like Hope's inner iron strength, and Faith's inner vulnerability.
  • It was the wrong thing to say, for he grabbed her wrist in his hand, clamping down on it with iron strength in a painful reminder of what he was.
  • But just staging the production is a remarkably brave act in a country where a tiny leadership elite uses its iron grip to promote once-vilified capitalist policies.
strength, toughness, resilience, fortitude, firmness, robustness, hardiness, steel
informal guts, grit, grittiness, spunk
uncompromising, unrelenting, unyielding, unbending, resolute, resolved, determined, firm, rigid, steadfast, unwavering, unvacillating;
stern, strict

Iron is widely distributed as ores such as haematite, magnetite, and siderite, and the earth’s core is believed to consist largely of metallic iron and nickel. Besides steel, other important forms of the metal are cast iron and wrought iron. Chemically a transition element, iron is a constituent of some biological molecules, notably haemoglobin.

2A tool or implement now or originally made of iron: a caulking iron
More example sentences
  • Gradually the business changed to supplying shoe irons for blacksmiths and began making nails.
  • Small-scale manufacturers also often relied on local smiths to provide the iron parts they required, be it mill irons or parts for vehicles.
tool, implement, utensil, device, apparatus, appliance, contrivance, contraption, mechanism
2.1 (irons) Metal supports for a malformed leg.
2.2 (irons) Fetters or handcuffs.
Example sentences
  • My military police personnel have never had to use leg cuffs, leg irons or hand irons or belly chains to move detainees.
  • Her feet were bound by irons, dress ripped ripped, and battered towards one side, while the other side draped down, just above the ankles.
manacles, shackles, fetters, chains, restraints, handcuffs
informal cuffs, bracelets
rare trammels
2.3 (irons) informal Stirrups.
Example sentences
  • Jockey Frank Amonte has perched expertly in the irons upon countless thoroughbreds since he officially began his race riding career in 1951.
  • With exercise rider in the irons, Evening Attire galloped once around the Belmont training track on Tuesday morning.
  • On the manager's office's left side was a grand, immense tack room, holding saddles, bridles, leathers, irons, and all assortments of tack to a large magnitude.
3A handheld implement, typically an electrical one, with a heated flat steel base, used to smooth clothes, sheets, etc.
Example sentences
  • Using an electric iron, the sheets were pressed flat.
  • Omnabibi uses an electric iron for her creased clothes.
  • For the middle classes, the decline of domestic servants was facilitated by the rise of domestic appliances, such as cookers, electric irons and vacuum cleaners.
flat iron, electric iron, steam iron, smoothing iron
4A golf club with a metal head (typically with a numeral indicating the degree to which the head is angled in order to loft the ball): [in combination]: a four-iron
More example sentences
  • Could not drive straight, could not manipulate the ball with irons and had a putter that was so cold it might have dripped with ice.
  • Still, my thought is of the way Nicklaus seems to caress the golf ball with his irons - the balls stays longer on his clubface.
  • Consequently, players of average skill should find it easier to launch the golf ball higher with newer irons.
4.1A shot made with an iron: his long irons were majestic
More example sentences
  • I bombed my tee shot, put a short iron on the green and two-putted for par.
  • Imagine: three-shot holes; long irons to par - 4s; shots bending in the wind.
  • The more prudent play is to keep the second shot to the right and then play a short iron into the green.
5 Astronomy A meteorite containing a high proportion of iron.
Example sentences
  • There are three basic types of meteorites: stones, stony-irons, and irons.


[with object] Smooth (clothes, sheets, etc.) with an iron.
Example sentences
  • In fact, my mother and I also washed and ironed his clothes in case the Minister has forgotten that part of his story.
  • His face is scrubbed, his clothes are ironed and his hair is slicked down.
  • Even the man who ironed clothes near Jayashri's home was overawed and showed her new respect.



have many (or other) irons in the fire

Have a range of options or courses of action available, or be involved in many activities or commitments at the same time.
Example sentences
  • I have other irons in the fire and I need some time away to deal with them, and I think we need some new blood in the chair.
  • In addition, each member of the production crew has other irons in the fire, like Stanislaus's first short film production, slated for March.
  • Ex-Pike Mark Willoughby came in for Saturday's match and may well feature again and Reid has other irons in the fire.

in irons

1Having the feet or hands fettered.
Example sentences
  • He, therefore, decreed that the stranger be brought before him shackled in irons.
  • Ned took off their gunbelts and secured them in irons.
  • They caught us trying to get back on the ship like nothing had happened, and we wound up in irons.
2(Of a sailing vessel) stalled head to wind and unable to come about or tack either way.
Example sentences
  • But as it has such high windage on the hull alone, that if you try putting her in irons [head to wind], she'll start moving backwards quite fast.

iron hand (or fist)

Used to refer to firmness or ruthlessness of attitude or behaviour: he ruled with an iron hand
More example sentences
  • He also ruled with an iron fist and was such a tyrant as had never risen before among the Zulu.
  • Large, corrupt and archaic, they had ruled Austria with an iron hand, buying political support by handing out jobs and lucrative contracts and acting in an unashamedly self - serving way.
  • Suharto was ruling Indonesia with an iron hand.

an iron hand (or fist) in a velvet glove

Firmness or ruthlessness cloaked in outward gentleness.
Example sentences
  • The fact is that India has realised that the only way to tackle China is with an iron hand in a velvet glove.
  • Ressler, who hides an iron fist in a velvet glove, did not miss the opportunity to praise them, while having a dig at current technical director.
  • The US and Britain have compromised to buy goodwill, retaining the right to strike with an iron fist in a velvet glove.

Phrasal verbs

iron something out

Solve or settle difficulties or problems: they had ironed out their differences
More example sentences
  • We have got to make sure that people understand the time is urgent and I hope even at this late stage any of the difficulties can be ironed out and dealt with.
  • There are some technicalities, which have to be resolved, but I am confident that any difficulties will be ironed out because air marshals will be a feature of the international aviation scheme before very long.
  • If costs are shouldered and technical difficulties have been ironed out by these, ID cards will have a much smaller hill to climb in cabinet.
resolve, straighten out, sort out, clear up, settle, put right, set right, set to rights, find a solution to, solve, remedy, heal, cure, rectify
informal patch up, fix, mend, clean up, crack, figure out
archaic compose
eliminate, eradicate, erase, get rid of, smooth over;
harmonize, reconcile



Pronunciation: /ˈʌɪənə/
Example sentences
  • What an odd mixture to carry around in my head, torrents of water dumping from the washers, the hiss of steam rising from the presses, and the grinding protest of the rollers on the flat work ironer when Papa started it up.
  • There will be a time-saving automatic shirt ironer, a huge plasma screen in a den in the basement, a steam oven and a high-technology music and television system beamed into every room.
  • Selclene is one of the UK's largest domestic cleaning agencies providing a regular cleaner / ironer for private houses.


Example sentences
  • Who, with an iron-like grip, presided over the single most successful era in Australian test cricket history?
  • Actually, his iron-like arms, which were capable of restraining several grown men, probably only had their power further increased by the logging work.
  • Pushing her into a room, he refused to release his iron-like grasp.


Old English īren, īsen, īsern, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch ijzer and German Eisen, and probably ultimately from Celtic.

  • The English word iron probably came from Celtic and was related to Latin aes ‘bronze’ and English ore (Old English). There are many different tools and implements described as irons because they are or were originally made of iron, such as branding irons and fire irons. The expression to have many irons in the fire, ‘to have a range of options’, comes from the way such tools are made. Blacksmiths have to heat the iron objects in a fire until they reach the critical temperature at which they can be shaped. If they have several items in the forge at the same time they can remove one and hammer it until it has cooled, then return it to the fire to heat up again and work on another. Another phrase from the work of a blacksmith is to strike while the iron is hot, ‘to make use of an opportunity immediately’.

    In a speech made in March 1946, Winston Churchill observed that ‘an iron curtain has descended across the Continent [of Europe]’. People often cite this as the origin of the Iron Curtain, the notional barrier separating the former Soviet bloc and the West before the decline of communism after 1989, but the phrase had been used in reference to the Soviet Union in the 1920s, and had the more general meaning of ‘an impenetrable barrier’ as far back as the early 19th century. Its origins actually lie in the theatre. Today's theatres employ a flame-resistant fire curtain, which in the late 18th century would have been of metal, a genuine iron curtain. In 1948 the term Bamboo Curtain arose to refer to the then-impenetrable barrier between China and non-Communist countries. Margaret Thatcher, then soon to become British prime minister, was given the nickname the Iron Lady in January 1976 by the Soviet newspaper Red Star. The paper accused her of trying to revive the Cold War. Irony (early 16th century) has no connection with iron. It came from Greek eirōneia ‘pretended ignorance’. See also velvet

Words that rhyme with iron

Brian, cyan, Gaian, Geminian, Hawaiian, ion, Ixion, lion, Lyon, Mayan, Narayan, O'Brien, Orion, Paraguayan, prion, Ryan, scion, Uruguayan, Zion

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: iron

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