Playing with fire

Playing with fire is a idiom rooted in antiquity. We will examine the meaning of the common saying playing with fire, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Playing with fire means to do something dangerous that has the great possibility of resulting in catastrophe. The image is of someone handling fire in a negligent manner, and that fire burning out of control. Various ways to express the notion of playing with fire have been in use since ancient times; the earliest known use of the phrase playing with fire occurred in the 1600s. Most probably, the idiom was in use long before that time. Related verb phrases are play with fire, plays with fire, played with fire.

Examples

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, will visit Taiwan next week for meetings with senior Taiwanese leaders, Taiwan’s government and the U.S. mission to the U.N. said, prompting China to warn they were playing with fire. (Reuters)

Iran’s nuclear move is playing with fire (Khmer Times)

Parties indoors are ‘playing with fire,’ N.J. governor warns; Philly outlines steps to reduce coronavirus risk in communities of color (Philadelphia Inquirer)

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