trial by fire

From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



  • (file)


trial by fire (plural trials by fire)

  1. A test in which a person is exposed to flames in order to assess their truthfulness, commitment, courage etc.
    • 1863, George Eliot, chapter 63, in Romola:
      “[I]t seems to me Fra Francesco is the greater hero, for he offers to enter the fire for the truth, though he is sure the fire will burn him.” . . .
      “It is true, Messer Segretario,” said the shopkeeper, with subdued impatience. “But will you favour us by interpreting the Latin?”
      “Assuredly,” said Tito. “It does but express the conclusions or doctrines which the Frate specially teaches, and which the trial by fire is to prove true or false.”
    • 1892, H. Rider Haggard, chapter 10, in Nada the Lily:
      And he pointed with his little assegai, the assegai handled with the royal wood, to where the fire glowed reddest—ay, he pointed and laughed. Then, my father, I grew cold indeed—yes, I grew cold who soon should be hot, for I saw the purpose of Chaka. He would put me to the trial by fire.
    • 1922, Sax Rohmer, chapter 34, in Fire-Tongue:
      [T]he final test, the trial by fire, which took place in a subterranean chamber of the great temple, resulted in a candidate whose courage failed him being precipitated into that lake of flame which I have already described.
  2. A situation in which a soldier or other combatant faces the discharge of opposing weapons, as a test of their fortitude.
    • 1939 September 8, “Swiss Hear Heavy Guns”, in Reading Eagle, USA, retrieved 15 July 2012, page 8:
      French troops, submitting to a trial by fire, drew toward the German forts, capturing and holding some machine-gun nests.
    • 1959 June 22, “Cinema”, in Time:
      Pork Chop Hill. Director Lewis Milestone . . . has produced a nerve-shattering study of how the American infantryman met his trial by fire in Korea.
  3. (idiomatic, by extension) Any ordeal which tests one's strength, endurance or resolve.
    • 1918, Stewart Edward White, chapter 5, in The Forty-Niners:
      But take it all in all, the overland trail was a trial by fire. One gets a notion of its deadliness from the fact that over five thousand people died of cholera alone.
    • 2001 June 18, Jessica Reaves, “Will Your Doctor Get More Reasonable Hours?”, in Time:
      Now, residents' legendary 100+-hour workweek may be on its way out. . . . Some doctors insist the long hours are a necessary trial by fire that produces highly skilled, virtually unflappable physicians.


See also[edit]