Add fuel to the fire

The idiom add fuel to the fire has an ancient origin. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom add fuel to the fire, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Add fuel to the fire means to make a bad situation worse, to aggravate an already touchy situation, to make someone more angry or more annoyed. The idiom add fuel to the fire can be traced back to ancient Rome and The history of Titus Livius who lived around 1AD: “Not withstanding my remonstrance, you have added fuel to this fire, by sending to your army a youth who burns with an ambition of sovereignty…” Related phrases are adds fuel to the fire, added fuel to the fire, adding fuel to the fire.


“We have all the other girls coming into the team for the test match too, and I think that will add a bit of fuel to the fire, and I think we’re going to take every day as it comes in the leadup to the next match.” (Hunter Women’s Chronicle)

The tweet was highly polarizing for a myriad of reasons that have helped to, once again, add fuel to the fire of politics in sports. (The Carolinian)

As if to add fuel to the fire, S&P Global Ratings released a report late last week with the title “Weakest Links Reach a 10-Year High.” (The Asset Securitization Report)

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