fight fire with fire

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Either from the practice of starting back fires to prevent the uncontrolled spread of wildfires, or from gunfire which is fought by firing back at the enemy.

This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.
Particularly: “Which of the two is it? The first is now probably the usual interpretation, but is it also the historical one?”


  • (file)


fight fire with fire (third-person singular simple present fights fire with fire, present participle fighting fire with fire, simple past and past participle fought fire with fire)

  1. (idiomatic) To respond to an attack with a similar or identical counter-attack (e.g. to respond to gunfire with reciprocal gunfire).


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