light a fire under

Idioms & Phrases

light a fire under

Also, build a fire under. Urge or goad to action, as in If we don't light a fire under that committee, they'll never do any work. This hyperbolic colloquialism uses light in the sense of "ignite," a usage dating from the mid-1100s.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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