Here’s another look at a word that has, either alone or in combination with other words, has several meanings.
The most common meaning of fire, of course, is that chemical change that creates heat and light, and usually smoke, which can evolve into a “destructive conflagration”. It was one of four substances thought in ancient and medieval cosmology to constitute the universe, along with earth, air, and water; five, if you count spirit.
But fire also means:
*enthusiasm, passion e.g., “all fired up”
and in one is at work and NOT “fired up” one could be subject to dismissal from employment, “getting fired”
a severe test; a trial or torment, “under fire”
the discharge of firearms or the like, “ready, aim, fire!”
to bake in a kiln, such as with pottery
to throw with force and speed; “fire a ball at a batter”
to ask questions, “fire away”
exposed to attack, “under fire”
*a burning sensation sometimes produced by drinking strong alcoholic liquor, “firewater”
and a whole lot more
Word History: Primitive Indo-European had pairs of words for some very common things, such as water or fire. Typically, one word in the pair was active, animate, and personified; the other, impersonal and neuter in grammatical gender. In the case of the pair of words for “fire,” English has descendants of both, one inherited directly from Germanic, the other borrowed from Latin.
As is often the case, I have found some songs that address the issue.
First, by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, a reference to hellfire. This song actually went to #2 in 1968 in the US, and somewhere I have it on some LP.
But the other fire songs here, which I also own, are about passion, romantic passion.
The Ohio Players, a #1 song from the winter of 1974-75.
Bruce Springsteen. His live 1978 version went to #46 in 1987. (I don’t know the vintage of this video.) And here’s a studio version. This Boss song was a big hit for the Pointer Sisters, #2 in the winter of 1978-79.
ABC Wednesday, Round 9