verb (used without object), burned or burnt, burn·ing.

  1. to undergo rapid combustion or consume fuel in such a way as to give off heat, gases, and, usually, light; be on fire: The fire burned in the grate.
  2. (of a fireplace, furnace, etc.) to contain a fire.
  3. to feel heat or a physiologically similar sensation; feel pain from or as if from a fire: The wound burned and throbbed.
  4. to give off light or to glow brightly: The lights in the house burned all night.
  5. to give off heat or be hot: The pavement burned in the noon sun.
  6. to produce pain or a stinging sensation similar to that of fire; cause to smart: The whiskey burned in his throat.
  7. Games. to be extremely close to finding a concealed object or guessing an answer.
  8. to feel extreme anger: When she said I was rude, I really burned.
  9. to feel strong emotion or passion: He burned with desire.
  10. Chemistry.
    1. to undergo combustion, either fast or slow; oxidize.
    2. to undergo fission or fusion.
  11. to become charred or overcooked by heat: The steak burned around the edges.
  12. to receive a sunburn: She burns easily and has to stay in the shade.
  13. to be damned: You may burn for that sin.
  14. Slang. to die in an electric chair: The murderer was sentenced to burn.
  15. to be engraved by or as if by burning: His words burned into her heart.

verb (used with object), burned or burnt, burn·ing.

  1. to cause to undergo combustion or be consumed partly or wholly by fire.
  2. to use as fuel or as a source of light: He burned coal to heat the house.
  3. to cause to feel the sensation of heat.
  4. to overcook or char: I almost burned the roast.
  5. to sunburn.
  6. to injure, endanger, or damage with or as if with fire: Look out, you’ll burn yourself!
  7. to execute by burning: The heretic was burned at the stake.
  8. to subject to fire or treat with heat as a process of manufacturing.
  9. to produce with or as if with fire: She burned a hole in her dress.
  10. to cause sharp pain or a stinging sensation: The iodine burned his cut.
  11. to consume rapidly, especially to squander: He burned energy as if he never heard of resting.
  12. Slang. to suffer losses or be disillusioned in business or social relationships: She was burned by that phony stock deal.
  13. Slang. to cheat or rob.
  14. Digital Technology. to copy or write data to (an optical disk): She burned a CD of their favorite songs.Compare rip1(def 4).
  15. Chemistry. to cause to undergo combustion; oxidize.
  16. to damage through excessive friction, as in grinding or machining; scorch.
  17. Metallurgy. to oxidize (a steel ingot), as with a flame.
  18. British. to scald (a wine, especially sherry) in an iron container over a fire.
  19. Cards. to put (a played or rejected card) face up at the bottom of the pack.
  20. Slang. to disclose the identity of (an undercover agent, law officer, etc.): to burn a narcotics detective.


  1. a burned place or area: a burn where fire had ripped through the forest.
  2. Pathology. an injury usually caused by heat but also by abnormal cold, chemicals, poison gas, electricity, or lightning, and characterized by a painful reddening and swelling of the epidermis (first-degree burn), damage extending into the dermis, usually with blistering (second-degree burn), or destruction of the epidermis and dermis extending into the deeper tissue with loss of pain receptors (third-degree burn).
  3. slow burn.
  4. the process or an instance of burning or baking, as in brickmaking.
  5. a forest or brush fire.
  6. the firing of a rocket engine.
  7. a burning sensation felt in the muscles during intense exercise (usually preceded by the): Repeat the sit-ups till you feel the burn in your lower abs.
  8. Slang. a swindle.

Verb Phrases

  1. burn down, to burn to the ground: That barn was struck by lightning and burned down.
  2. burn in, Photography. (in printing) to expose (one part of an image) to more light by masking the other parts in order to darken and give greater detail to the unmasked area.Also print in.Compare dodge(def 2).
  3. burn off, (of morning mist) to be dissipated by the warmth of the rising sun.
  4. burn on, to weld lead with lead.
  5. burn one up, Informal. to incite to anger: That attitude burns me up.
  6. burn out,
    1. to cease functioning because something has been exhausted or burned up, as fuel or a filament: Our light bulbs burned out.
    2. to deprive of a place to live, work, etc., by reason of fire: They were burned out and had to live with relatives.
    3. to wear out; exhaust; be worn out; become exhausted.
  7. burn up,
    1. to burn completely or utterly: The papers burned up in a minute.
    2. Informal.to become angry: He burns up at the mention of her name.
  1. burn one’s bridges (behind one). bridge1(def 26).
  2. burn oneself out, to exhaust one’s energy, ideas, etc., through overwork or intemperance: They feared that he would burn himself out or break down.
  3. burn the midnight oil, to work, study,etc., until late at night: to burn the midnight oil before final exams.
  4. burn the/one’s candle at both ends, to be excessively active or immoderate, as by leading an active social life by night and a busy work life by day: You can’t burn the candle at both ends and hold onto a job.

noun Scot. and North England.

  1. a brook or rivulet.

verb burns, burning, burnt or burned

  1. to undergo or cause to undergo combustion
  2. to destroy or be destroyed by fire
  3. (tr) to damage, injure, or mark by heathe burnt his hand; she was burnt by the sun
  4. to die or put to death by fireto burn at the stake
  5. (intr) to be or feel hotmy forehead burns
  6. to smart or cause to smartbrandy burns one’s throat
  7. (intr) to feel strong emotion, esp anger or passion
  8. (tr) to use for the purposes of light, heat, or powerto burn coal
  9. (tr) to form by or as if by fireto burn a hole
  10. to char or become charredthe potatoes are burning in the saucepan
  11. (tr) to brand or cauterize
  12. (tr) to cut (metal) with an oxygen-rich flame
  13. to produce by or subject to heat as part of a processto burn charcoal
  14. (tr) to copy information onto (a CD-ROM)
  15. astronomy to convert (a lighter element) to a heavier one by nuclear fusion in a starto burn hydrogen
  16. cards, mainly British to discard or exchange (one or more useless cards)
  17. (tr; usually passive) informal to cheat, esp financially
  18. slang, mainly US to electrocute or be electrocuted
  19. (tr) Australian slang to drive fast (esp in the phrase go for a burn)
  20. burn one’s bridges or burn one’s boats to commit oneself to a particular course of action with no possibility of turning back
  21. burn the candle at both ends See candle (def. 3)
  22. burn one’s fingers to suffer from having meddled or been rash


  1. an injury caused by exposure to heat, electrical, chemical, or radioactive agents. Burns are classified according to the depth of tissue affected: first-degree burn : skin surface painful and red; second-degree burn : blisters appear on the skin; third-degree burn : destruction of both epidermis and dermis
  2. a mark, e.g. on wood, caused by burning
  3. a controlled use of rocket propellant, esp for a course correction
  4. a hot painful sensation in a muscle, experienced during vigorous exercisego for the burn!
  5. Australian and NZ a controlled fire to clear an area of scrub
  6. slang tobacco or a cigarette


  1. Scot and Northern English a small stream; brook

12c., combination of Old Norse brenna “to burn, light,” and two originally distinct Old English verbs: bærnan “to kindle” (transitive) and beornan “to be on fire” (intransitive), all from Proto-Germanic *brennan/*branajan (cf. Middle Dutch bernen, Dutch branden, Old High German brinnan, German brennen, Gothic -brannjan “to set on fire”). This perhaps is from PIE *gwher- “to heat, warm” (see warm (adj.)), or from PIE *bhre-n-u, from root *bhreue- “to boil forth, well up” (see brew (v.)). Related: Burned/burnt (see -ed); burning.

Figuratively (of passions, battle, etc.) in Old English. Meaning “cheat, swindle, victimize” is first attested 1650s. In late 18c, slang, burned meant “infected with venereal disease.” To burn one’s bridges (behind one) “behave so as to destroy any chance of returning to a status quo” (attested by 1892 in Mark Twain), perhaps ultimately is from reckless cavalry raids in the American Civil War. Slavic languages have historically used different and unrelated words for the transitive and intransitive senses of “set fire to”/”be on fire:” cf. Polish palić/gorzeć, Russian žeč’/gorel.


c.1300, “act of burning,” from Old English bryne, from the same source as burn (v.). Until mid-16c. the usual spelling was brenne. Meaning “mark made by burning” is from 1520s. Slow burn first attested 1938, in reference to U.S. movie actor Edgar Kennedy (1890-1948), who made it his specialty.


  1. To undergo or cause to undergo combustion.
  2. To consume or use as fuel or energy.
  3. To damage or injure by fire, heat, radiation, electricity, or a caustic agent.
  4. To irritate or inflame, as by chafing or sunburn.
  5. To become sunburned or windburned.
  6. To metabolize a substance, such as glucose, in the body.
  7. To impart a sensation of intense heat to.
  8. To feel or look hot.


  1. An injury produced by fire, heat, radiation, electricity, or a caustic agent.
  2. A burned place or area.
  3. The process or result of burning.
  4. A stinging sensation.
  5. A sunburn or windburn.


  1. To be on fire; undergo combustion. A substance burns if it is heated up enough to react chemically with oxygen.
  2. To cause a burn to a bodily tissue.


  1. Tissue injury caused by fire, heat, radiation (such as sun exposure), electricity, or a caustic chemical agent. Burns are classified according to the degree of tissue damage, which can include redness, blisters, skin edema and loss of sensation. Bacterial infection is a serious and sometimes fatal complication of severe burns.

In addition to the idioms beginning with burn

  • burn at the stake
  • burn down
  • burned up
  • burn in effigy
  • burning question
  • burn into
  • burn off
  • burn one’s bridges
  • burn oneself out
  • burn one’s fingers
  • burn out
  • burn rubber
  • burn someone up
  • burn the candle at both ends
  • burn the midnight oil
  • burn to a cinder
  • burn up

also see:

  • crash and burn
  • ears are burning
  • fiddle while Rome burns
  • (burn) in effigy
  • money burns a hole in one’s pocket
  • money to burn
  • slow burn
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