backfire

verb
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

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 when what initially sounded like a truck backfiring clarified into gunshots, the routine assignment for a veteran journalist morphed in a moment. Washington Post, "Photographer recounts facing Dallas gunman," 18 June 2019 But when what initially sounded like a truck backfiring clarified into gunshots, the routine assignment for a veteran journalist morphed in a moment. Jake Bleiberg, Twin Cities, "Photographer recounts facing Dallas gunman, who could have shot him," 18 June 2019 Others fear that an attempt to directly confront Trump or disrupt the event could backfire. CBS News, "White House still silent about Trump's plans for July 4th celebrations," 12 June 2019 It’s created a split among the House Democratic caucus, with some calling for impeachment and others, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, advocating a more cautious approach, fearing the move could backfire. Christina Prignano, BostonGlobe.com, "Most Mass. voters don’t like Trump. But nearly half don’t support impeachment, poll finds," 11 June 2019 But the plan is backfiring as an ethically dubious program involving private-interest funding of state AG staff is being confronted in court. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "State AGs’ Climate Cover-up," 7 June 2019 But that can backfire and cause undue worry, or limit participants’ ability to find support online, says Lipset. Heidi Ledford, Scientific American, "A Question of Control," 16 May 2019 Their small farm was repossessed after an investment in a friend backfired. Tristan Gooley, WSJ, "Summer Books 2019: Walking," 24 May 2019 Authorities said a separate rebel assault on a police station in eastern Victoria town backfired Thursday when officers fought back and killed three insurgents and captured three others. Jim Gomez, The Seattle Times, "Philippine communist rebels mark 50th year with new attacks," 29 Mar. 2019

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

25 Jun 2019

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 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

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 take the place or position of

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!