add fuel to the fire

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Alternative forms[edit]


  • (file)


add fuel to the fire

  1. Used other than with a figurative or idiomatic meaning: see add,‎ fuel,‎ fire.
  2. (idiomatic) To worsen a conflict between people; to inflame an already tense situation
    Instead of apologizing to his girlfriend he decided to add fuel to the fire.
    • 1817, Hansard of Great Britain, The Parliamentary history of England, volume 30:
      [1794, February 25] ... While the French slaves were in a state of convulsion, it was very extraordinary to wish; by pouring in fresh slaves among them, to add fuel to the fire, and give them fresh reinforcements of mutineers ; for such would the newly-imported slaves become.
    • 1839, Charles Dodd, Mark Aloysius Tierney (editor), Dodd's Church History of England, Volume 2,
      But this had no effect, only to add fuel to the fire ; so that, at last, both parties were so exasperated, that, had not the magistrates of Frankfort (who were now head of the English reformed church) interposed, they were on the point of coming to blows.
    • 1891, The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, Volume 54,
      ... and to admit women into active participation in politics will certainly be to increase disorder and add fuel to the fire of strife.
    • 1895, William Kingsford, The History of Canada, volume 8, page 10:
      The first consul continued to add fuel to the fire.
    Synonyms: pour gasoline on the fire, add insult to injury, fan the flames, make matters worse
    Antonym: pour oil on troubled waters

Usage notes[edit]

  • The metaphor can be found with several kinds of variation:
    • inflection of add and fire
    • different determiners, possessives, and no determiner instead of the
    • determiners, possessives, and adjectives modifying fuel
    • substitution of put and pour for add, usually with on for to.