"You canker blossom!" 3 Shakespearean Insults


[bak-fahyuh r] /ˈbækˌfaɪər/
verb (used without object), backfired, backfiring.
(of an internal-combustion engine) to have a loud, premature explosion in the intake manifold.
to bring a result opposite to that which was planned or expected:
The plot backfired.
to start a fire deliberately in order to check a forest or prairie fire by creating a barren area in advance of it.
(in an internal-combustion engine) premature ignition of fuel in the intake manifold.
an explosion coming out of the breech of a firearm.
a fire started intentionally to check the advance of a forest or prairie fire.
Origin of backfire
1775-85, Americanism; back2 + fire
2. miscarry, boomerang; flop, bomb, wash out. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for backfire
  • The idea is that no matter what goodness someone tries to bring into the world, the intentions will ultimately backfire.
  • However, new research into one threatened animal suggests that the approach can sometimes backfire.
  • Something as simple as requiring bicyclists to wear helmets can backfire in surprising ways.
  • Few romantic come-ons backfire more humiliatingly than come-ons picked up from books or movies.
  • Moving too quickly on alternative fuels could backfire, says one expert on ethanol fuels.
  • And it suggests, surprisingly, that offering material incentives in exchange for sacred values may backfire badly.
  • In the case of malaria, however, that defense mechanism may backfire.
  • But these approaches can backfire by changing people's stories in unintended ways.
  • But the new study suggests that this strategy is likely to backfire.
  • By certifying species as endangered, government programs can backfire.
British Dictionary definitions for backfire


verb (intransitive)
(of an internal-combustion engine) to emit a loud noise as a result of an explosion in the inlet manifold or exhaust system
(of an endeavour, plan, etc) to have an unwanted effect on its perpetrator: his plans backfired on him
to start a controlled fire in order to halt an advancing forest or prairie fire by creating a barren area
(in an internal-combustion engine)
  1. an explosion of unburnt gases in the exhaust system
  2. a premature explosion in a cylinder or inlet manifold
a controlled fire started to create a barren area that will halt an advancing forest or prairie fire
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for backfire

1839, American English, originally "a fire deliberately lit ahead of an advancing prairie fire to deprive it of fuel," from back (adj.) + fire (n.). As a verb in this sense, recorded from 1886. The meaning "premature ignition in an internal-combustion engine" is first recorded 1897. Of schemes, plans, etc., "to affect the initiator rather than the intended object" it is attested from 1912, a figurative use from the accidental back-firing of firearms.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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