Fire and Brimstone – Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Have you heard of the saying fire and brimstone before? It always sounds like some kind of spicy barbecue sauce to me, but I know that’s not the case. In fact, this old expression has a deeper meaning when you learn about its origin. So, I’ll douse the flames of confusion around this phrase and explain all the details of how to work it into a conversation.

Fire and Brimstone Meaning Explained

Fire and Brimstone Origin Meaning

Fire and brimstone is a term that is supposed to represent God’s wrath in the Christian tradition. In simpler terms, we use it to describe a severe punishment, especially in a religious or moral context. It’s like a divine version of “You’re in big trouble now, mister!” But I have to say that it does carry a bit more weight than simple parental scolding.

Can You Say Brimstone and Fire?

While you’re welcome to get creative with your phrases, brimstone and fire doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it, does it? But also, fire and brimstone is the historically recognized phrase, so use that one. Reversing the order might make your readers or listeners do a double-take or, worse, think you’ve made a misstep. Gasp! So, just stick with fire and brimstone for a smooth, traditional delivery.

Also, consider how you’re using the saying when in writing. Is it a noun? Spell it without hyphens. Is it an adjective? Then you need to hyphenate it—fire-and-brimstone lecture.

Origin and Etymology of Fire and Brimstone

The phrase fire and brimstone, to no surprise, comes from the Bible, specifically in Genesis 19:24, where it’s used to describe the eternal torments of the damned in Hell and God’s extreme judgment of them. It was also used to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Fire and Brimstone Ngram
Fire and brimstone usage trend.

Brimstone is an old name for sulfur, so fire and brimstone refer to burning sulfur, which creates a really unpleasant rotten egg smell and can be harmful to inhale. As you can imagine, it’s not the ideal vacation destination if it’s got an acrid odor like that.

Synonyms for Fire and Brimstone

Switch up your wordage with a few alternatives to the expression fire and brimstone.

  • Hellfire
  • Damnation
  • Wrath of God
  • Eternal punishment
  • Hell and high water

Fire and Brimstone Examples in a Sentence

Fire and Brimstone Origin Meaning 1

The easiest tip for getting acquainted with a new saying is to see how you can use it in the full context of a sentence. So, here are a few examples I whipped up.

  • The preacher stood at the front of the church and warned the sinners about the fire and brimstone that awaited them if they didn’t repent.
  • Your fire-and-brimstone speech about the consequences of ignoring climate change left the audience in shocked silence.
  • I loved that film that portrayed the dictator’s regime as one of fire and brimstone.
  • Foley’s fire-and-brimstone approach to discipline kept her students in line.
  • He was well known for his fire-and-brimstone rhetoric, which suddenly seemed to polarize his loyal listeners.

Out in a Blaze

It’s pretty clear that this idiomatic expression isn’t about a fiery condiment or a volcanic display. It’s just a vivid and powerful illustration of punishment, especially in a divine context. So, try to use this phrase sparingly unless you’re engaged in some crazy, dramatic storytelling. Either way, now you’ve got the knowledge to use fire and brimstone to heat up any conversation!