backfire

1 of 2

verb

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

intransitive verb

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

backfire

2 of 2

noun

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

Examples of backfire in a Sentence

Verb my plan to throw her a surprise party backfired when she ended up thinking that everyone had forgotten her birthday
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
The debacle highlights how quants’ efforts to woo clients—this time by quietly adding better-performing smaller stocks in portfolios tracking benchmarks to boost returns—could backfire when going too far. Bloomberg, Fortune Asia, 23 Feb. 2024 Like a fourth-and-two gamble in the third quarter, the decision backfired, as a heavily pressured Jared Goff threw a pass that fell way short for Amon-Ra St. Brown. USA TODAY, 22 Feb. 2024 But forcing staffers to disrupt entrenched work-life patterns could backfire, workplace experts said, with lower engagement and retention rates. Matthew Boyle, Fortune Europe, 16 Feb. 2024 But the interview backfired, undercutting the claims of bribery. Luke Broadwater, New York Times, 16 Feb. 2024 This campaign—mirrored with less success by the FBI—appeared to backfire in a matter of hours, with Senate intelligence staff refusing to support Turner’s claims and instead issuing a statement that implied his disclosure had put classified sources at risk. Dell Cameron, WIRED, 16 Feb. 2024 The strategy backfired when McNerney was asked to enter the race. East Bay Times Editorial, The Mercury News, 6 Feb. 2024 But the strategy of locking up products, which is cheaper for them than hiring more staff to keep watch throughout a store, has backfired. Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN, 29 Jan. 2024 In the end, though, the joke backfires: the book sells, and becomes the most successful thing Monk has ever published. Radhika Seth, Vogue, 7 Feb. 2024
Noun
Occasionally, the oldest marketing trick in the book backfires. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 13 Feb. 2024 Aside from being detrimental to a company as a whole because of morale and attrition, talent hoarding also backfires on individual managers who hold onto employees for too long. Paige McGlauflin, Fortune, 31 Jan. 2024 Baby Capybara Who Went Viral for Dancing Like Michael Jackson Officially Named by Zoo Home If the plan backfires, however, the swear-happy birds will still be the star attraction of the zoo. Bailey Richards, Peoplemag, 24 Jan. 2024 Now, a loose coalition of anti-censorship voices is working to make that strategy backfire. Andy Greenberg, WIRED, 1 Feb. 2024 The new research quantitatively demonstrates how search results, especially those prompted by queries that contain keywords from misleading articles, can easily lead people down digital rabbit holes and backfire. Lauren Leffer, Scientific American, 20 Dec. 2023 And, avoiding breakfast for the sake of a larger meal later in the day typically backfires. Rebecca Jaspan, Mph, Rd, Health, 23 Nov. 2023 That decision backfires, with Kora on hand to channel her friends' shock and fear into anger and a willingness to fight back. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 13 Nov. 2023 Universal credited the footage to commercial newsreel and Army Air Force cameramen, but Japanese camera people were also on the scene in the immediate aftermath of the blasts documenting the backfire on their countrymen. Thomas Doherty, The Hollywood Reporter, 12 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'backfire.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

Verb

1852, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun

1801, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of backfire was in 1801

Dictionary Entries Near backfire

Cite this Entry

“Backfire.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/backfire. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

backfire

1 of 2 noun
back·​fire -ˌfī(ə)r How to pronounce backfire (audio)
1
: a fire that is set to check the spread of a forest fire or a grass fire by burning off a strip of land ahead of it
2
: a loud noise caused by the improperly timed explosion of fuel in the cylinder of an internal combustion engine

backfire

2 of 2 verb
1
: to make a backfire
2
: to have a result opposite to what was planned
their plans backfired

More from Merriam-Webster on backfire

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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