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A fireman
A railway locomotive fireman


fire +‎ -man



fireman (plural firemen)

  1. (firefighting) Someone (especially one who is male) who is skilled in the work of fighting fire.
    • 1993, Nancy F. Cott (editor), History of Women in the United States. Historical Articles on Women's Lives and Activities. 15. Women and War, page 432:
      By February 1944 there were over two thousand women employed at the Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company [...]. There were also female firemen on almost every shipyard crane [...].
    • 30 June 2019, 'Don't call us for cats stuck in trees', Fire Brigade warns (Daily Telegraph)
      For firemen everywhere rescuing cats from trees has been as much a part of the job as tackling blazing buildings.
    Synonyms: firefighter, smoke eater
    Hyponyms: firewoman, hotshot, smokejumper
  2. (rail transport, nautical) A person (originally a man) who keeps the fire going underneath a steam boiler (originally, shoveling coal by hand), particularly on a railroad locomotive or steamship.
    • ca. 1913 The wreck of Old 97 [ballad, Blue Ridge Mountains], verse 3:
      He looked around his cab at his black greasy fireman, saying 'shovel on a little more coal, and when we cross that White Oak Mountain, you can watch Old 97 roll'.
    • 1938, Xavier Herbert, Capricornia, Chapter IX, p. 140, [1]
      No grass grew under a train when the engineer let Fireman McLash take the throttle.
    • 2013 August 24, Sophie Wyllie, quoting Tina Pinney, “Volunteer Tina steams ahead and becomes qualified fireman on North Norfolk Railway”, in Eastern Daily Press[2], ISSN 1468-4039:
      I was elated to pass because there were times when I did not think I was physically capable. It is quite rare for a woman to become a fireman.
    • 2022 January 12, Benedict le Vay, “The heroes of Soham...”, in RAIL, number 948:
      The driver remained at his post, while telling fireman Jim Nightall to get down on the track and run back to uncouple the burning wagon from the rest.
    Synonym: (informal) bakehead
    Coordinate term: engineman
  3. (rail transport, by extension) An assistant on any locomotive, whether steam-powered or not.
  4. (baseball) A relief pitcher (reflecting the figurative analogy of rescuing the situation).
  5. (mining, historical) A safety inspector in coal mines.

Usage notes[edit]

  • (firefighting): Historically only a man, but now used to refer to female firefighters as well. In modern usage, the gender-inclusive term firefighter is generally preferred.
  • (rail transport): This term is commonly used for both males and females, firewoman is rarer in this sense.

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