Playing with fire is a idiom rooted in antiquity. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, 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 like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. 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; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. 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.
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)