back·​fire | \ ˈbak-ˌfī(-ə)r How to pronounce backfire (audio) \
backfired; backfiring; backfires

Definition of backfire

 (Entry 1 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to have the reverse of the desired or expected effect their plans backfired
2 : to make or undergo a backfire



Definition of backfire (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a loud noise caused by the improperly timed explosion of fuel mixture in the cylinder of an internal combustion engine
2 : a fire started to check an advancing fire by clearing an area

Synonyms for backfire

Synonyms: Verb

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Examples of backfire in a Sentence

Verb my plan to throw her a surprise party backfired when she ended up sobbing that everyone had forgotten her birthday
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Rampant inflation is helping reduce the weight of the world’s public debt relative to its economic output, a boon for governments that economists warn could easily backfire if inflation stays unchecked. Tom Fairless, WSJ, 1 May 2022 The debate centers on whether a referral would backfire by politically tainting the expanding federal investigation. New York Times, 24 Apr. 2022 Muldoon noted that the move could backfire by making regulators more likely to crack down on the company. Irina Ivanova, CBS News, 2 Nov. 2021 But Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, argues that failing to choose more between the two priorities could ultimately backfire by increasing the federal debt too much. Ronald Brownstein, CNN, 20 July 2021 The irony is that sometimes their zealotry does backfire on Republicans. Michael Tomasky, The New Republic, 11 Apr. 2022 That carries no legal weight and could even backfire because it will be perceived as political. Zachary B. Wolf, CNN, 11 Apr. 2022 The message this award sends to C.K.’s victims and other female comics and comedy writers is that their cries will fall on deaf ears – and might well backfire. Mona Shaikh, The Hollywood Reporter, 5 Apr. 2022 But efforts by repressors actually backfire plenty of times and increase protest, as opposed to decreasing it. Sophie Bushwick, Scientific American, 15 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun That cascaded into a wild tribal vote: One player tried to steal a second player’s immunity idol only to have the power play backfire because of a doublecross executed by a third player. al, 11 May 2022 If Republicans go for it, Tuesday’s primary could be the start of another Trumpian backfire. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 11 May 2022 Using broad or generic affirmations probably won’t be helpful and can, in some cases, backfire, experts said. Washington Post, 2 May 2022 With each double, or any help defender sliding over to shrink the floor, Jokić and Curry have absolutely no problem getting rid of the ball quickly to make the defensive strategy backfire. Shane Young, Forbes, 16 Apr. 2022 But as the parties gear up for midterm elections and beyond, could the sharp questioning backfire on the GOP? ABC News, 27 Mar. 2022 The engine sounds and blasts of sharp exhaust backfire are best heard from inside the cabin. Austin Irwin, Car and Driver, 25 Feb. 2022 In a culture that has historically silenced so many voices, the opportunity to amplify concerns and critiques is critical, but the flip side is the possible fallout and backfire that can occur when anything goes out into the ether. Michelle Konstantinovsky, Glamour, 21 Jan. 2022 Jacqueline Tessmer, who taught digital media at Baker’s Auburn Hills campus for 14 years, saw the Baker experience backfire for low-income students who weren’t prepared for college. David Jesse And Anna Clark,, 12 Jan. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'backfire.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of backfire


1852, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1801, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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The first known use of backfire was in 1801

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Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Backfire.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for backfire


back·​fire | \ ˈbak-ˌfīr How to pronounce backfire (audio) \
backfired; backfiring

Kids Definition of backfire

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to have a result opposite to what was planned The joke backfired.
2 : to make a loud engine noise caused by fuel igniting at the wrong time



Kids Definition of backfire (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a loud engine noise caused by fuel igniting at the wrong time
2 : a fire that is set to stop the spread of a forest fire or a grass fire by burning off a strip of land ahead of it

More from Merriam-Webster on backfire

Nglish: Translation of backfire for Spanish Speakers


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