Too many irons in the fire

Too many irons in the fire is an idiom that dates back hundreds of years. We will examine the meaning of the common saying too many irons in the fire, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Too many irons in the fire describes someone who is attempting to do too many things at once, someone who has divided his time between too many activities so that none of them are done well. It is inefficient and unfocused to have too many irons in the fire. The expression too many irons in the fire is derived from the trade of blacksmithing. If a blacksmith attempts to heat too many pieces of iron in his fire at once, it cools the fire and none of the pieces of iron will heat properly. The phrase too many irons in the fire dates back to the mid-1500s.

Examples

But with three young children to raise and coaching with the Southeast Iowa Soccer Academy, Kuechmann felt he had too many irons in the fire to dedicate his time properly to everything. (The Burlington Hawk Eye)

To a certain extent, the grain elevator used to take care of the mowing, but since it got damaged in a storm last June the elevator operator has had “too many irons in the fire” to take care of it anymore, so Grates has stepped up to do it. (The Journal-Advocate)

The job boosted his personal celebrity and arguably the paper’s profile, but he rapidly had too many irons in the fire in broadcasting for the BBC to give the paper his full attention or commitment. (The Guardian)