Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.


You have no right to burn down a man's house because you leave him his lot.

Her snake's bells are going, and she thinks the house'll burn down.

The people who had once threatened to burn down his house could not do enough for him.

And the scoundrel Rostopchin was punished by an order to burn down his houses.

Swartboy would do all this as soon as the four huge bonfires should burn down.

"It's an outrage to burn down a forest, anyway," said Roger.

The doctor can say, "Jones has that twitch in the nerves, and he may burn down the house."

We talked about whose houses the Red Avengers ought to burn down first.

Refused by the guards, they threatened to burn down the residence.

The spearmen took no chance of their trying to burn down the place.


12c., combination of Old Norse brenna "to burn, light," and two originally distinct Old English verbs: bærnan "to kindle" (transitive) and beornan "to be on fire" (intransitive), all from Proto-Germanic *brennan/*branajan (cf. Middle Dutch bernen, Dutch branden, Old High German brinnan, German brennen, Gothic -brannjan "to set on fire"). This perhaps is from PIE *gwher- "to heat, warm" (see warm (adj.)), or from PIE *bhre-n-u, from root *bhreue- "to boil forth, well up" (see brew (v.)). Related: Burned/burnt (see -ed); burning.

Figuratively (of passions, battle, etc.) in Old English. Meaning "cheat, swindle, victimize" is first attested 1650s. In late 18c, slang, burned meant "infected with venereal disease." To burn one's bridges (behind one) "behave so as to destroy any chance of returning to a status quo" (attested by 1892 in Mark Twain), perhaps ultimately is from reckless cavalry raids in the American Civil War. Slavic languages have historically used different and unrelated words for the transitive and intransitive senses of "set fire to"/"be on fire:" cf. Polish palić/gorzeć, Russian žeč'/gorel.


Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.