32 Fire Idioms in English: Useful Idioms With Meanings

Fire has always been a powerful element in human history, captivating our imagination and shaping our language. In English, we often use idioms that stem from the characteristics of fire to express a wide array of emotions and situations. We employ fire idioms to describe everything. These fiery phrases can convey urgency, danger, passion, or even a sense of renewal.

What Are Fire Idioms?

Fire idioms are phrases or expressions in the English language that use the word ‘fire’ or related concepts to convey a message figuratively than literally. We use these idioms to add color and emotion to our speech, drawing on the intense nature of fire to highlight the impact or intensity of situations.

32 Fire Idioms in English: Useful Idioms With Meanings

Here are a few examples to help us understand fire idioms better:

  • Play with fire: To engage in a risky activity.
  • Under fire: Being heavily criticized.
  • Fire away: Giving someone permission to begin speaking or asking questions.
  • Out of the frying pan and into the fire: Moving from a bad situation to one that is worse.

List of Fire Idioms

  • Playing with fire
  • Fight fire with fire
  • Out of the frying pan into the fire
  • Fire in the belly
  • On fire
  • Fire away
  • Under fire
  • Adding fuel to the fire
  • Where there’s smoke, there’s fire
  • Catch fire
  • Fire up
  • Fire on all cylinders
  • Hold one’s feet to the fire
  • Like a moth to a flame
  • Burn the midnight oil
  • Burn bridges
  • Burn the candle at both ends
  • Burn one’s fingers
  • Have many irons in the fire
  • Set the world on fire
  • Burned out
  • A baptism of fire
  • Liar, liar, pants on fire
  • Keep the home fires burning
  • To light a fire under someone
  • To fan the flames
  • Trial by fire
  • Not a spark of decency
  • A burnt child dreads the fire
  • To go up in flames
  • To have a fire in one’s eye
  • To burn one’s boats

Fire Idioms With Meaning, Usage, and Example

Playing with fire

  • Meaning: Engaging in risky or dangerous behavior.
  • Usage: Often used as a warning to indicate that someone’s actions could lead to trouble.
  • Example: He’s playing with fire by investing all his money in one stock.

Fight fire with fire

  • Meaning: Responding to an attack using the attacker’s methods.
  • Usage: Can be used literally or metaphorically to suggest meeting aggression with similar force.
  • Example: When the smear campaign started, the candidate decided to fight fire with fire.

Out of the frying pan into the fire

  • Meaning: Escaping a bad situation only to find oneself in a worse one.
  • Usage: Used to describe a situation where an attempt to solve a problem results in a more difficult predicament.
  • Example: She left a difficult job but her new workplace is even more chaotic—out of the frying pan into the fire.

Fire in the belly

  • Meaning: A strong desire or enthusiasm.
  • Usage: Refers to someone’s passion or motivation to achieve something.
  • Example: You can tell he’s got fire in the belly, he works day and night on his project.

On fire

  • Meaning: Performing extremely well or being in a state of excitement.
  • Usage: Often used to describe someone who is doing exceptionally well in a sport, job, or other activity.
  • Example: The basketball player was on fire last night, scoring 30 points.

Fire away

  • Meaning: Proceed with asking questions or voicing an opinion.
  • Usage: Used to give someone permission to begin speaking or to ask questions.
  • Example: You have questions about the project? Fire away.

Under fire

  • Meaning: Being subjected to intense criticism or scrutiny.
  • Usage: Often used to describe someone who is being criticized by the public or media.
  • Example: The CEO was under fire for the company’s poor financial performance.

Adding fuel to the fire

  • Meaning: Worsening an already bad or intense situation.
  • Usage: Describing actions that exacerbate a conflict or problem.
  • Example: His angry comments were just adding fuel to the fire.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

  • Meaning: If there is evidence of a problem, there likely is a problem.
  • Usage: Suggesting that rumors or signs of trouble are often based on some truth.
  • Example: The company denies any wrongdoing, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Catch fire

  • Meaning: To become very popular or to begin to burn.
  • Usage: Can be used to describe something gaining popularity quickly or literally catching on fire.
  • Example: The new fashion trend caught fire and everyone was wearing it.

Fire up

  • Meaning: To motivate or become enthusiastic.
  • Usage: Often used in sports or team settings to encourage excitement and readiness.
  • Example: The coach’s speech really fired up the players before the game.

Fire on all cylinders

  • Meaning: To operate at a peak level of performance.
  • Usage: Describing someone or something working very efficiently and effectively.
  • Example: After her morning coffee, she’s firing on all cylinders.

Hold one’s feet to the fire

  • Meaning: To pressure someone to fulfill a commitment or to hold them accountable.
  • Usage: Often used in contexts where someone is being forced to follow through on a promise or duty.
  • Example: The investors held the CEO’s feet to the fire for the missed deadlines.

Like a moth to a flame

  • Meaning: Being irresistibly attracted to something, often to one’s own detriment.
  • Usage: Describing a situation where someone is drawn to something harmful or dangerous.
  • Example: He was like a moth to a flame when it came to fast cars.

Burn the midnight oil

  • Meaning: To work late into the night or early hours of the morning.
  • Usage: Describing someone who is working very hard, often staying up late to do so.
  • Example: She’s been burning the midnight oil to finish the report on time.

Burn bridges

  • Meaning: To destroy one’s relationship or reputation with others, often deliberately.
  • Usage: Used to caution against actions that could permanently harm relationships.
  • Example: Be careful not to burn bridges with your colleagues when you leave the job.

Burn the candle at both ends

  • Meaning: To work excessively hard and exhaust oneself by doing too much, especially at both ends of the day.
  • Usage: Often used as a warning against overworking and not getting enough rest.
  • Example: You can’t keep burning the candle at both ends without getting worn out.

Burn one’s fingers

  • Meaning: To suffer from a situation because of one’s actions, especially after taking a risk.
  • Usage: Used to describe someone who has had a negative experience as a result of their own actions.
  • Example: He burned his fingers investing in that dubious startup.

Have many irons in the fire

  • Meaning: To be involved with many activities or projects at once.
  • Usage: Can be positive, referring to someone who is diversely active, or negative, suggesting overcommitment.
  • Example: She always has many irons in the fire, which is why she’s so successful.

Set the world on fire

  • Meaning: To do something remarkable that captures a lot of attention.
  • Usage: Describing someone who achieves something extraordinary or impressive.
  • Example: He’s ambitious and wants to set the world on fire with his innovative ideas.

Burned out

  • Meaning: To be extremely tired and no longer able to function effectively due to overwork or stress.
  • Usage: Often used to describe job-related stress, but can apply to any situation of exhaustion.
  • Example: After working at that pace for months, she felt completely burned out.

A baptism of fire

  • Meaning: A difficult introduction to a new job, activity, or situation; facing immediate challenges upon taking on something new.
  • Usage: Describing a very challenging or tough start that tests one’s abilities.
  • Example: His first day on the trading floor was a real baptism of fire.

Liar, liar, pants on fire

  • Meaning: A phrase used, often by children, to accuse someone of lying.
  • Usage: Typically used in a playful or teasing manner.
  • Example: “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” the kids chanted when they caught their friend making up a story.

Keep the home fires burning

  • Meaning: To maintain a household or support system, especially during someone’s absence.
  • Usage: Often used metaphorically to refer to maintaining the stability or warmth of a home or relationship.
  • Example: While he was deployed overseas, his wife kept the home fires burning.

To light a fire under someone

  • Meaning: To motivate or inspire someone to act, especially with urgency.
  • Usage: Used when someone needs encouragement or a push to get started on a task.
  • Example: We need to light a fire under the team to get this project finished on time.

To fan the flames

  • Meaning: To make a situation or conflict worse or more intense.
  • Usage: Often used when someone’s actions are causing a disagreement or negative situation to escalate.
  • Example: His provocative comments only fanned the flames of the debate.

Trial by fire

  • Meaning: A situation in which someone is tested through a difficult and challenging experience.
  • Usage: Describing a tough situation that someone must endure, which often leads to personal or professional growth.
  • Example: Her first week as a paramedic was a trial by fire, with numerous emergency calls.

Not a spark of decency

  • Meaning: Completely lacking in basic courtesy or proper behavior.
  • Usage: Used to express disapproval of someone’s actions or character.
  • Example: He showed not a spark of decency when he pushed ahead in the queue.

A burnt child dreads the fire

  • Meaning: Once someone has been hurt or had a bad experience, they are cautious to avoid similar situations in the future.
  • Usage: Often used as a proverb to explain cautious behavior stemming from past experiences.
  • Example: She’s been very careful with investments since losing money; a burnt child dreads the fire.

To go up in flames

  • Meaning: To be destroyed by fire, or to fail spectacularly.
  • Usage: Can be used literally or metaphorically to describe something ending in disaster.
  • Example: The project went up in flames after the key investor pulled out.

To have a fire in one’s eye

  • Meaning: To show a strong emotion or enthusiasm, often anger or determination.
  • Usage: Describing someone’s visible passion or intensity in their expression.
  • Example: You could see she had a fire in her eye when she talked about her plans for the company.

To burn one’s boats

  • Meaning: To make a decision or take an action that is irreversible and prevents returning to a previous position.
  • Usage: Similar to ‘burning bridges,’ but often with a focus on personal commitment to a course of action.
  • Example: By publicly announcing his candidacy, he burned his boats and committed to the political path.

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