Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
circular firing squad
A group, usually a political party, that is allied against a common enemy or opponent but whose internal disagreements and attacks end up doing more damage to each other than to their target. The lead up to the presidential nomination saw the party devolve into a circular firing squad, as each candidate's vociferous bid to unseat the incumbent president ended up creating huge divisions and disarray within the party itself.
fire on all cylinders
1. To have all cylinders in an engine functioning. There's something wrong with my car—it's definitely not firing on all cylinders.
2. To function or operate at the most desirable or greatest possible level of efficiency, speed, or productivity. (Usually used in the continuous tense.) The new website will be firing on all cylinders once we get the comments section up and running! I only fire on all cylinders after I've had my coffee.
fire (one's) pistol in the air
1. In a duel, to shoot one's firearm into the air to avoid injuring the other party. A: "Did I just hear a gunshot? Is the duel over?" B: "Sir Edmund fired his pistol into the air, so Master William is unscathed."
2. To avoid harshly criticizing or otherwise hurting someone during an argument or debate. I usually fire my pistol in the air in these sorts of debates—I hate hurting people's feelings.
1. In battle, a line of soldiers armed and ready to fire on an enemy. Our firing line will be able to push back the enemy, I'm sure of it.
2. A place where one is vulnerable to criticism. I'm not going into the boss's office right now—I'm not ready to be on the firing line this early in the morning!
be in the firing line
To be a likely target of anger, criticism, or judgment. You will be in the firing line if you keep coming into work late. Because I'm an artist and all of my siblings are doctors, I'm always in the firing line at family functions.
fire a shot across the bow
To do something as a warning. The phrase refers to a warning shot from a ship. She fired a shot across the bow, letting her boyfriend know that she would not tolerate his bad attitude.
slang Of a man, to have no sperm in his semen. We already know that Emma is healthy, so if she can't get pregnant, I must be firing blanks.
in the firing line
In a position or situation in which one attracts or is vulnerable to criticism or anger. I'm not going into the boss's office about that right now—I'm not ready to be in the firing line this early in the morning! Because I'm an artist and all of my siblings are doctors, I'm always in the firing line at family functions.
on the firing line
In a position or situation in which one attracts or is vulnerable to criticism or anger. I'm not going into the boss's office about that right now—I'm not ready to be on the firing line this early in the morning! Because I'm an artist and all of my siblings are doctors, I'm always on the firing line at family functions.
be firing on all cylinders
To be functioning or operating at the most desirable or greatest possible level of efficiency, speed, or productivity. The automated messaging process is firing on all cylinders now that we've solved the bouncing issue. I'll be firing on all cylinders after I've had my coffee.
1. To hastily write and send a message. A noun or pronoun can be used between "fire" and "off." He's always firing off angry emails and getting himself into trouble.
2. To make statements or ask questions in rapid succession. A noun or pronoun can be used between "fire" and "off." He fired off so many questions that I couldn't keep track of them all.
3. To shoot a weapon. A noun or pronoun can be used between "fire" and "off." Someone is out in the woods firing off a gun of some kind.
fire from the hip
To speak or act rashly, recklessly, or bluntly, without consideration of potential consequences. An allusion to firing a handgun immediately upon drawing it from its holster without taking time to aim. The country's prime minister has gained a reputation for firing from the hip, issuing executive orders without consulting members of parliament. The boss tends to fire from the hip, so don't take what he says too personally.
fire insults at (one)
To insult one in rapid succession. That bully is constantly firing insults at the other kids in class.
go down with guns firing
To continue to fight or resist someone or something until one is ultimately defeated. Of course the enemy troops haven't given up yet—I suspect they'll go down with guns firing.
hire and fire
Employ and release from employment. The department has started looking into the practices of businesses that hire and fire staff quickly enough that they never have to pay employment benefits. Your complaints have been duly noted, but the board of directors will have the final authority to hire and fire.
1. To begin talking or asking questions. OK, fire away—what do you want to know about my date last night?
2. To begin to shoot a weapon. The robber fired away first and then ran from the cops.
3. To deplete a supply of something by discharging it from a weapon. Don't fire away all your bullets now—more enemy troops are advancing!
1. verb To cause someone to feel more passionate or excited about someone or something. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "fire" and "up." I know our players are nervous about the big game, but it's our job as coaches to fire them up.
2. verb To turn on a machine. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "fire" and "up." Well, fire up the coffee pot and tell me all about your date last night!
3. verb To light something, typically something to be smoked (such as a cigarette or pipe). In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "fire" and "up." Come on, fire up those cigars, boys—we're celebrating!
4. verb, slang To smoke marijuana. He must fire up all day long because he's always stoned when I see him.
5. adjective Feeling very excited or passionate about something. The crowd is really fired up right now, so let's send out the starters for the game. Don't go and talk to the boss while you're all fired up like this—wait until you're calmer so you don't say something you'll regret.
work on all cylinders
1. To have all cylinders in an engine functioning. There's something wrong with my car—it's definitely not working on all cylinders.
2. By extension, to function or operate at the most desirable or greatest possible level of efficiency, speed, or productivity. (Usually used in the continuous tense.) The new website will be working on all cylinders once we get the comments section up and running! I only work on all cylinders after I've had my coffee.
fire on all four cylinders
To function or operate at the most desirable or greatest possible level of efficiency, speed, or productivity. (Usually used in the continuous tense.) The phrase alludes to the cylinders in an engine. The new website will be firing on all four cylinders once we get the comments section up and running! I only fire on all four cylinders after I've had my coffee.
1. obsolete Of a firearm, to fail to fire a shot. (Replaced in modern English by the word "misfire.") He had the better aim of the two, but his pistol missed fire, and he was killed in the duel.
2. obsolete By extension, to fail to do as expected or intended; to not achieve the intended or anticipated result. (Replaced in modern English by the word "misfire.") It is now clear that the government's social welfare experiment has greatly miss fired.
fire away (at someone)
Fig. to ask many questions of someone; to criticize someone severely. When it came time for questions, the reporters began firing away at the mayor. Members of the opposite party are always firing away at the president.
fire someone up
Fig. to motivate someone; to make someone enthusiastic. See if you can fire John up and get him to rake the leaves. I have to fire up the electorate if I want them to vote for me.
fire something off (to someone)
Fig. to send something to someone immediately, by a very rapid means. Fire a letter off to Fred, ordering him to return home at once. I fired off a letter to Fred as you asked. I finished the e-mail and fired it off.
fire something up
1. Lit. to light something, such as a pipe, cigarette, etc. If you fire that pipe up, I will leave the room. Please don't fire up that cigar in here!
2. Fig. to start something such as an engine. Fire this thing up, and let's get going. Andy fired up the snowblower and started to clear a path.
to light a cigarette, cigar, or pipe. One by one, the guests went outside and fired up. I have to get out of here and fire up.
firing on all cylindersand hitting on all cylinders
1. Lit.[of an internal combustion engine] having all its cylinders working and thus providing the maximum amount of power. The old car is firing on all cylinders despite its age. This thing's not hitting on all cylinders.
2. Fig. working at full strength; making every possible effort. The team is firing on all cylinders under the new coach. The factory is hitting on all cylinders to finish the orders on time.
I'd rather face a firing squad than do something
Fig. I would prefer to stand and be executed by gunfire than to do something. I'd rather face a firing squad than go shopping the day after Christmas.
Start to talk or ask questions. For example, You've got more questions? Well, fire away. This expression originated in the 1600s as a military command to discharge firearms and was being transferred to other actions by the late 1700s. Also see fire off.
Say or write and send away rapidly, as in He fired off three more questions, or She fired off a letter of complaint to the president. This expression originally (from about 1700) was, and still is, used in the sense of "discharge a weapon or ammunition," as in The police were instructed to fire off canisters of tear gas. The figurative use dates from the late 1800s.
fire on all cylinders
Also, hit or click on all cylinders . Function very well, as in Once we figured out how to use the new software, the department was firing on all cylinders , or "So the best infielder takes time to fit into the infield of a Big League club and have it hit on all four cylinders again" (Christy Mathewson, Pitching in a Pinch, 1912). This term transfers the functioning of an internal combustion engine, which works best when all its cylinders ignite, to broader use. [Early 1900s]
1. Inflame with enthusiasm, anger, or another strong emotion, as in Her speech fired up the crowd in favor of her proposals. This expression dates from the early 1800s, when it referred literally to starting a fire in a furnace or boiler; its figurative use dates from the late 1800s.
2. Light a pipe, cigar, or cigarette, as in Do you mind if I fire up? [Late 1800s] A more common term, however, is light up, def. 2.
3. Start the ignition of an engine, as in Whenever he tried to fire up the motor, it stalled. [Mid-1900s]
firing line, on the
In the forefront of any activity or pursuit, especially a controversy. For example, At the sales conference they asked so many questions that Anne felt she was on the firing line . This expression originally meant the line of positions from which gunfire is directed at a target and is still so used in a military context. Today it is also used more loosely. [Late 1800s]
Fail to achieve the anticipated result, as in Recycling cardboard seemed like a good idea but it missed fire. First recorded in 1727, this phrase originally described a firearm failing to go off and has been used figuratively since the mid-1800s.
If someone fires blanks, they try hard but fail to achieve something. Dalian and his fellow attackers continued to fire blanks against Liverpool and it was left to full-back Staunton to provide United's first goal. Note: Blanks are gun cartridges which contain explosive but do not contain a bullet, so that they do not cause any injuries or damage when the gun is fired.
be firing on all cylinders
COMMON If someone is firing on all cylinders, they are doing a task with great enthusiasm and energy. I saw her a few weeks ago and she was firing on all cylinders. When Wales are firing on all cylinders, they can beat any country in the world. Note: If someone is not doing a task as well as they should be, you can say that they are not firing on all cylinders or are only firing on two cylinders. We were only firing on two cylinders in the first half of the game. Note: This expression refers to the cylinders in an engine. There are usually four of them.
in the firing lineor
in the line of fire
1. If you are in the firing line or in the line of fire, you are in a position where you are likely to be criticized or attacked. Her views sometimes put her in the firing line of women's rights groups. Since he is in charge of reforming the commission, he was one of those in the line of fire yesterday. Note: You can also say that someone is out of the firing line or out of the line of fire if they are away from a position where they are likely to be criticized or attacked. He wanted to get his client out of the firing line before applying for any court orders.
2. If someone is in the firing line or in the line of fire, they are in the way of people who are firing guns, and therefore likely to be shot. Any hostages in the firing line would have been sacrificed. They forced the men to walk ahead of soldiers, putting them first in the line of fire from the rebels. Note: You can also say that someone is out of the firing line or out of the line of fire if they are away from a position where they are likely to be shot. To get him out of the firing line, she asked the General to appoint Santiago to his staff.
fire blanks(of a man) be infertile. informal
The expression is based on the idea of a gun firing blank cartridges.
firing on all (four) cylindersworking or functioning at a peak level.
This expression is a metaphor from an internal-combustion engine: a cylinder is said to be firing when the fuel inside it is ignited.
1998 Entertainment Weekly Even when his imagination isn't firing on all cylinders, Amis is still worth picking up, if only to enjoy the jazzy rhythm of his prose.
in the firing linein a situation where you are subject to criticism or blame because of your responsibilities or position.
2001 Sunday Business Post Once again the International Monetary Fund is in the firing line after the financial collapse in Argentina.
go down with (all) guns firingfail or be beaten, but continue to offer resistance until the end.
hire and fireengage and dismiss, especially as indicating a position of established authority over other employees.
1992 Martin Anderson Impostors in the Temple Usually the trustees, and they alone, hire and fire the president. They have fiduciary responsibility.
firing/working on all ˈcylinders(informal) using all your energy to do something; working as well as possible: The 24-year-old player feels that he is not yet firing on all cylinders.
be in the ˈfiring line(British English) (American English be on the ˈfiring line) be in a position where you are likely to be affected, attacked, criticized, etc: The newspapers are criticizing the government’s policy again, and the Prime Minister is in the firing line. ♢ In the latest round of spending cuts, teachers’ jobs are again in the firing line.
1. To start to ask questions or talk. Often used as a command: I know you have questions, so fire away. As soon as the candidate finished his speech, the pundits fired away with their commentaries.
2. To begin to shoot with a weapon: The troops landed on the beach and started firing away. I fired away at the burglar as he ran from the house.
3. To use up something by shooting it from a weapon: The recruits fired away all of the ammunition during practice. We fired the last bullets away at the range.
1. To say or ask something rapidly, especially a question or command: The prosecutor fired questions off to the witness. My parents fired off reasons why my plan wouldn't work.
2. To write and send a communication quickly: I fired off a positive reply to the job offer. My friend fired an angry letter off to the editor.
3. To shoot something from a weapon, especially in quick succession: The police officer fired off warning shots when the suspect approached them. At the parade, the color guard fired three shots off.
1. To set something going, especially a machine; start the operation of something: She fired up the furnace as soon as she entered the old house. The driver fired the engine up and we took off.
2. To make someone or something excited or enthusiastic: The review fired me up about the author's new book. The cheerleaders fired up the crowd.
3. To light a cigarette, cigar, or similar product: The comedian fired up a cigar and began his act. The patient fired the cigarette up despite the doctor's warnings.
in. to start asking questions; to start talking; to start doing something. The cops fired away at him for an hour.
in. to light a marijuana cigarette. Frank fires up at every chance.
1. To fail to discharge. Used of a firearm.
2. To fail to achieve the anticipated result.