burn 1 (bûrn)
v. burned or burnt (bûrnt), burn·ing, burns
1. To undergo combustion or be consumed as fuel: The dry wood burned quickly.
2. To be damaged, injured, or destroyed by fire, heat, radiation, electricity, or a caustic agent: a house that burned to the ground; eggs that burned and stuck to the pan.
3. To consume fuel: a rocket stage designed to burn for three minutes before being jettisoned.
a. To emit heat or light by fire or energy: campfires burning in the dark; lights burning in the windows.
b. To become dissipated or be dispelled: The fog burned off as the sun came up. Their anger burned away in time.
a. To suffer death or punishment by fire: souls burning in hell.
b. To be electrocuted.
a. To be very hot; bake: a desert burning under the midday sun.
b. To feel or look hot: a child burning with fever.
c. To impart a sensation of heat: a liniment that burns when first applied.
a. To penetrate something by intense heat, energy, or caustic effect: The acid burned into the table.
b. To cause a strong impression, especially by emotional intensity: a look that burned into them; shame burning into my heart.
a. To become irritated or painful, as by chafing or inflammation: eyes burning from the smoke.
b. To become sunburned or windburned.
9. To be consumed with strong emotion, especially:
a. To be or become angry: an insult that really made me burn.
b. To be very eager: was burning with ambition.
a. To cause to undergo combustion, especially to the point of destruction: We burned the scrap wood in the fireplace.
b. To consume (fuel or energy, for example): burned all the wood that winter.
a. To use as a fuel: a furnace that burns coal.
b. To metabolize (glucose, for example) in the body.
3. To damage or injure by fire, heat, radiation, electricity, or a caustic agent: burned the toast; burned my skin with the acid.
a. To make or produce by fire or heat: burn a hole in the rug.
b. To dispel or dissipate, as by heat: The sun burned off the fog. Resentments that burned away their tender feelings.
a. To execute or kill with fire: burning heretics at the stake.
b. To execute by electrocution.
a. To irritate or inflame, as by chafing or sunburn.
b. To impart a sensation of intense heat to: The chili burned my mouth.
c. To make angry: What really burns me is his arrogance.
7. To brand (an animal).
a. To engrave or make indelible by burning: burned his initials into the wood.
b. To cause to be felt or remembered because of emotional intensity: The image of the accident was burned into my memory.
9. To harden or impart a finish to by subjecting to intense heat; fire: burn clay pots in a kiln.
a. To defeat in a contest, especially by a narrow margin.
b. Sports To outplay or score on (an opponent), especially through quick or deceptive movement.
c. To inflict harm or hardship on; hurt: "Huge loan losses have burned banks in recent years" (Christian Science Monitor).
d. To swindle or deceive; cheat: We really got burned on the used car we bought.
a. To write data onto (an optical disc).
b. To write (data) onto an optical disc.
1. An injury produced by fire, heat, radiation, electricity, or a caustic agent.
2. A burned place or area: a cigarette burn in the tablecloth.
3. An act, process, or result of burning: The fire settled down to a steady burn.
4. A sensation of intense heat, stinging pain, or irritation: a chili burn on the tongue; the burn of alcohol on an open wound.
5. A sunburn or windburn.
1. To stop burning from lack of fuel: The campfire eventually burned out.
2. To wear out or make or become inoperative as a result of heat or friction: The short circuit burned out the fuse. The computer's motherboard burned out.
3. To make or become exhausted, especially as a result of long-term stress: "Hours are long, stress is high, and many recruits drop out or burn out" (Robert J. Samuelson).
4. To cause (someone) to have to evacuate an area or building because of fire: The shopkeeper was burned out by arsonists.
1. To make angry: Their rudeness really burns me up.
2. To travel over or through at high speed: drag racers burning up the track.
burn itself out
To stop burning from lack of fuel: The brush fire finally burned itself out.
burn (one's) bridges
To eliminate the possibility of return or retreat.
burn the/one's candle at both ends
To exhaust oneself or one's resources by leading a hectic or extravagant life.
burn the midnight oil
To work or study very late at night.
In great amounts: They had money to burn.
[Middle English burnen, from Old English beornan, to be on fire, and from bærnan, to set on fire; see gwher- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: burn1, scorch, singe, sear1, char1
These verbs mean to injure or alter by means of intense heat or flames. Burn, the most general, applies to the effects of exposure to a source of heat or to something that can produce a similar effect: burned the muffins in the oven; skin burned by the wind and sun. Scorch involves superficial burning that discolors or damages the texture of something: scorched the shirt with the iron. Singe specifies superficial burning and especially the removal of hair or feathers from a carcass before cooking: singed his finger lighting the match; plucked and singed the chicken before roasting it. Sear applies to rapid superficial burning using high heat: seared the meat in a hot skillet. To char is to reduce a substance to carbon or charcoal by partial burning: trees charred by the forest fire.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.