fire
firer, n.
/fuyeur/, n., v., fired, firing.
n.
1. 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.
2. a burning mass of material, as on a hearth or in a furnace.
3. the destructive burning of a building, town, forest, etc.; conflagration.
4. heat used for cooking, esp. the lighted burner of a stove: Put the kettle on the fire.
5. See Greek fire.
6. flashing light; luminous appearance.
7. brilliance, as of a gem.
8. burning passion; excitement or enthusiasm; ardor.
9. liveliness of imagination.
10. fever or inflammation.
11. severe trial or trouble; ordeal.
12. exposure to fire as a means of torture or ordeal.
13. strength, as of an alcoholic beverage.
14. a spark or sparks.
15. the discharge of firearms: enemy fire.
16. the effect of firing military weapons: to pour fire upon the enemy.
17. Brit. a gas or electric heater used for heating a room.
18. Literary. a luminous object, as a star: heavenly fires.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. catch fire,
a. Also, catch on fire. to become ignited; burn: The sofa caught fire from a lighted cigarette.
b. to create enthusiasm: His new book did not catch fire among his followers.
22. fight fire with fire, to use the same tactics as one's opponent; return like for like.
23. 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.
24. hang fire,
a. to be delayed in exploding, or fail to explode.
b. to be undecided, postponed, or delayed: The new housing project is hanging fire because of concerted opposition.
25. miss fire,
a. to fail to explode or discharge, as a firearm.
b. to fail to produce the desired effect; be unsuccessful: He repeated the joke, but it missed fire the second time.
26. on fire,
a. ignited; burning; afire.
b. eager; ardent; zealous: They were on fire to prove themselves in competition.
27. play with fire, to trifle with a serious or dangerous matter: He didn't realize that insulting the border guards was playing with fire.
28. set fire to,
a. to cause to burn; ignite.
b. to excite; arouse; inflame: The painting set fire to the composer's imagination. Also, set on fire.
29. take fire,
a. to become ignited; burn.
b. to become inspired with enthusiasm or zeal: Everyone who heard him speak immediately took fire.
30. under fire,
a. under attack, esp. by military forces.
b. under censure or criticism: The school administration is under fire for its policies.
v.t.
31. to set on fire.
32. to supply with fuel; attend to the fire of: They fired the boiler.
33. to expose to the action of fire; subject to heat.
34. to apply heat to in a kiln for baking or glazing; burn.
35. to heat very slowly for the purpose of drying, as tea.
36. to inflame, as with passion; fill with ardor.
37. to inspire.
38. to light or cause to glow as if on fire.
39. to discharge (a gun).
40. to project (a bullet or the like) by or as if by discharging from a gun.
41. to subject to explosion or explosive force, as a mine.
42. to hurl; throw: to fire a stone through a window.
43. to dismiss from a job.
44. Vet. Med. 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.
45. to drive out or away by or as by fire.
v.i.
46. to take fire; be kindled.
47. to glow as if on fire.
48. to become inflamed with passion; become excited.
49. to shoot, as a gun.
50. to discharge a gun: to fire at a fleeing enemy.
51. to hurl a projectile.
52. Music. to ring the bells of a chime all at once.
53. (of plant leaves) to turn yellow or brown before the plant matures.
54. (of an internal-combustion engine) to cause ignition of the air-fuel mixture in a cylinder or cylinders.
55. (of a nerve cell) to discharge an electric impulse.
56. 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.
57. fire off,
a. to discharge (as weapons, ammunition, etc.): Police fired off canisters of tear gas.
b. to write and send hurriedly: She fired off an angry letter to her congressman.
[bef. 900; (n.) ME; OE fyr; c. ON furr, G Feuer, Gk pyr (see PYRO-); (v.) ME firen to kindle, inflame, deriv. of the n.]

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I
Rapid burning of combustible material, producing heat and usually accompanied by flame.

For eons, lightning was the only source of fire. The earliest controlled use of fire seems to date to с 1,420,000 years ago, but not until с 7000 BC did Neolithic humans acquire reliable firemaking techniques, including friction from hardwood drills and sparks struck from flint against pyrites. Fire was used initially for warmth, light, and cooking; later it was used in fire drives in hunting and warfare, and for clearing forests of underbrush to facilitate hunting. The first agriculturalists used fire to clear fields and produce ash for fertilizer; such "slash-and-burn" cultivation is still used widely today. Fire also came to be used for firing pottery and for smelting bronze (с 3000 BC) and later iron (с 1000 BC). Much of the modern history of technology and science can be characterized as a continual increase in the amount of energy available through fire and brought under human control.
II
(as used in expressions)
Saint Elmo's fire

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Introduction
 rapid burning of combustible material with the evolution of heat and usually accompanied by flame. It is one of the human race's essential tools, control of which helped start it on the path toward civilization.

      The original source of fire undoubtedly was lightning, and such fortuitously ignited blazes remained the only source of fire for aeons. For some years Peking man, about 500,000 BC, was believed to be the earliest unquestionable user of fire; evidence uncovered in Kenya in 1981 and in South Africa in 1988, however, suggests that the earliest controlled use of fire by hominids dates from about 1,420,000 years ago. Not until about 7000 BC did Neolithic man acquire reliable fire-making techniques, in the form either of drills, saws, and other friction-producing implements or of flint struck against pyrites. Even then it was more convenient to keep a fire alive permanently than to reignite it.

Original uses of fire.
      The first human beings to control fire gradually learned its many uses. Not only did they use fire to keep warm and cook their food; they also learned to use it in fire drives in hunting or warfare, to kill insects, to obtain berries, and to clear forests of underbrush so that game could be better seen and hunted. Eventually they learned that the burning of brush produced better grasslands and therefore more game.

      With the achievement of agriculture in Neolithic (Neolithic Period) times in the Middle East about 7000 BC, there came a new urgency to clear brush and trees. The first agriculturists made use of fire to clear fields and to produce ash to serve as fertilizer. This practice, called slash-and-burn cultivation (slash-and-burn agriculture), persists in many tropical areas and some temperate zones today.

Manufacture of fire.
      The step from the control of fire to its manufacture is great and required hundreds of thousands of years. The number and variety of inventions of such manufacture are difficult to imagine. Not until Neolithic times is there evidence that human beings actually knew how to produce fire. Whether a chance spark from striking flint against pyrites or a spark made by friction while drilling a hole in wood gave human beings the idea for producing fire is not known; but flint and pyrites, as well as fire drills, have been recovered from Neolithic sites in Europe.

      Most widespread among prehistoric and later primitive peoples is the friction method of producing fire. The simple fire drill, a pointed stick of hard wood twirled between the palms and pressed into a hole on the edge of a stick of softer wood, is almost universal. The fire-plow and the fire saw are variations on the friction method common in Oceania, Australia, and Indonesia. Mechanical fire drills were developed by the Eskimo, ancient Egyptians, Asian peoples, and a few American natives. A fire piston that produced heat and fire by the compression of air in a small tube of bamboo was a complex device invented and used in southeastern Asia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. About 1800 a metal fire piston was independently invented in Europe. In 1827 the English chemist John Walker (Walker, John E.) invented the friction match containing phosphorous sulfate, essentially the same as that which is in use today.

Fire in religion and philosophy.
      The sacred fires and fire drills of religious rituals and the numerous fire-gods of world mythology must be interpreted as additional evidence of both the antiquity and the importance of fire in human history. In the ancient Vedic scriptures, Agni, or Fire, is the messenger between the people and their gods and the personification of the sacrificial fire. Brahman households today are supposed to maintain a sacred fire for the worship of Agni, much as the ancient Romans kept a holy perpetual fire cared for by the vestal virgins and as the Greeks tended and transported the sacred fire of Hestia during migrations. The Zoroastrians (Zoroastrianism) of Iran placed fire at the centre of their religion and worshiped it as the most subtle and ethereal principle and the most potent and sacred power, thought to have been presented to man directly from heaven and kindled by the Deity himself. Among the Israelites, Abraham might be viewed as a reformer who resisted the ancient worship of Moloch, the god of fire, by child sacrifice. In Siberia both the primitive Koryak and Chuckchi (Chukchi) and the more civilized Buryat honoured the fire-god by keeping all filth and impurities away from their fires and hearths. The need to protect fire from contamination was also a belief in parts of Africa, North and South America, and elsewhere. The Aztec of Mexico and the Inca of Peru worshiped gods of fire with sacred flames, which the Inca ignited by concentrating the Sun's rays with a concave metallic mirror.

      The great Greek scientists and philosophers found fire just as significant as did the mystics of religion. Aristotle, for example, declared fire, along with water, earth, and air, to be one of the four general and essential elements of life and of all things. Plato asserted that God used the four elements in the creation of the world. Heraclitus (Heracleitus) attributed to fire the essential force for creation.

Fire and the growth of civilization.
      Familiarity with fire, resulting from its easy production by flint and steel, phosphorus matches, or electricity, has led modern civilizations to take fire for granted. Yet, just as the initial control of fire was essential to the development of human beings from Old Stone Age hunters of the tropical forests into the first village-dwelling farmers of the Neolithic, so fire has been essential at every stage of the growth of civilization during the succeeding 10,000 years. From the use of fire to cook food, to clear land, and to furnish warmth and illumination in caves or hovels, fire has been applied to vessels of clay to make pottery and to pieces of ore to obtain copper and tin, to combine these to make bronze (c. 3000 BC), and to obtain iron (c. 1000 BC). Much of the modern history of technology and science might be characterized as a continual increase in the amount of energy available through fire and brought under human control. Most of the increased available energy has come from ever greater amounts and kinds of fires.

gem
      in gems, rapidly changing flashes of colour seen in some gems, such as diamonds. Some minerals show dispersion; (dispersion) that is, they break incident white light into its component colours. The greater the separation between rays of red light (at one end of the visible spectrum) and rays of violet light (at the other end), the greater the dispersion and the greater the fire, because the separate coloured rays produce this phenomenon. In properly cut gemstones with strong dispersion, white light entering through the crown will be reflected and returned through the crown as coloured light; improper cutting, however, reduces reflection and, hence, the stone's fire.

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Universalium. 2010.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

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