backfire

verb
back·​fire | \ˈbak-ˌfī(-ə)r \
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

backfire

noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for backfire

Synonyms: Verb

boomerang

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

But the suits say the sanctions amount to a ham-handed attempt at social engineering that backfired. Douglas Belkin, WSJ, "Harvard Faces Lawsuits Over Sanctions on Single-Sex Clubs," 3 Dec. 2018 Furthermore, as the Snowden leaks made all too clear, secret attempts by governments to undermine the security of technology can backfire —damaging the economic prospects of companies competing in an increasingly global marketplace. Greg Nojeim, Eric Wenger, Ars Technica, "FBI vs. Facebook Messenger: What’s at stake?," 2 Oct. 2018 The plan could also backfire if things between Saudi Arabia and Qatar get even more tense. Ken Jennings, Condé Nast Traveler, "This New Canal Would Turn Qatar into an Island," 17 Sep. 2018 California has among the strictest gun-control laws in the nation, including some that have arguably backfired. Gregg Re, Fox News, "Judge strikes down 'highly paternalistic' California law banning handgun ads, slams state's 'distrust' of gun buyers," 12 Sep. 2018 Campbell’s soup sales have declined over the past year while its attempts to make more fresh food have backfired. Annie Gasparro, WSJ, "Third Point, Campbell Heir Push Soup Maker to Sell," 9 Aug. 2018 But such instances of mixed company remain rare, and some attempts to keep pace with the reforms have backfired. Washington Post, "Saudi women on the front line of change," 17 June 2018 While Elbaz brought a diaphanous magic that revived the oldest French house still in operation, bringing in a new voice can backfire as well. Elizabeth Raiss, refinery29.com, "Why Do We Treat A Fashion Designer Leaving A Brand Like Someone Dying?," 14 June 2018 Rewards, especially dessert and continual cheerleading, also backfire. Ashleigh Spitza, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Picky, picky: Strategies to get your kids (or yourself) to try new foods," 11 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Nearly 3,000 firefighters have been working around the clock, lighting backfires and building a containment line, in an effort to keep the flames at bay. John Blackstone, CBS News, "Thousands of firefighters battling massive wildfires in western U.S.," 4 July 2018 Here's how Cal Fire is gaining ground in containing the 82,700-acre County Fire Advertisement Cal Fire crews are lighting backfires to contain the massive County Fire in Napa and Yolo counties near Lake Berryessa. Benjy Egel, sacbee, "County Fire swells to nearly 83,000 acres as firefighters inch closer to containment," 4 July 2018 But Smith made the decision backfire when his single made it 2-0. Clark Spencer, miamiherald, "It was 1993 all over again as teal-clad Marlins take care of Padres," 8 June 2018 So is talk of a Trump summit with Putin — unless the president bluntly confronts the Russian leader about his cyber espionage in Europe and the U.S. >> READ MORE: Will Trump’s deal-making backfire and embroil U.S. in new wars? Trudy Rubin, Philly.com, "Trump pummels G-7 democratic allies but loves autocrats | Trudy Rubin," 8 June 2018 If its wager backfires, everyday low prices will be where Walmart least wants it: in the stock price. Charley Grant, WSJ, "Healthy Skepticism About Walmart and Humana," 30 Mar. 2018 Praise for White's performance in Pyeongchang caught backfire on social media at a time when #MeToo and other movements are calling for more accountability about harassment and abuse. Thr Staff, The Hollywood Reporter, "Olympic Champion Shaun White Refers to Sexual Misconduct Lawsuit as "Gossip"," 14 Feb. 2018 Praise for White's performance in Pyeongchang caught backfire on social media at a time when #MeToo and other movements are calling for more accountability about harassment and abuse. Jake Seiner, Houston Chronicle, "Shaun White apologizes for comments on sexual misconduct lawsuit," 14 Feb. 2018 Praise for White's performance in Pyeongchang caught backfire on social media at a time when #MeToo and other movements are calling for more accountability about harassment and abuse. chicagotribune.com, "Shaun White refers to sexual misconduct lawsuit as 'gossip'," 14 Feb. 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of backfire

Verb

1852, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun

1801, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about backfire

Dictionary Entries near backfire

backfiller

back fillet

backfin

backfire

backfisch

backfist

backfit

Statistics for backfire

Last Updated

10 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for backfire

The first known use of backfire was in 1801

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for backfire

backfire

verb

English Language Learners Definition of backfire

of an engine or vehicle : to make a loud sound when fuel is not burned properly

: to have the opposite result of what was desired or expected

backfire

verb
back·​fire | \ˈbak-ˌfīr \
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

backfire

noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on backfire

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with backfire

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for backfire

Spanish Central: Translation of backfire

Nglish: Translation of backfire for Spanish Speakers

Comments on backfire

What made you want to look up backfire? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to make faulty or ineffective

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!