Definition of backfire in English:



  • 1(of an engine) undergo a mistimed explosion in the cylinder or exhaust.

    ‘a car backfired in the road’
    • ‘If I got it wrong (not too often, thankfully) the motor would backfire and try to kick me over the handlebars.’
    • ‘The engine coughed, backfired, and a small explosion sent the transport's occupants flying.’
    • ‘The operation of the rotary engine means that it is not prone to backfiring on hydrogen, as conventional piston engines are.’
    • ‘‘Now, I get very panicky at the sound of a loud explosion caused by a tire blowout or the sound of a car backfiring in the parking lot,’ he said jokingly.’
    • ‘‘It just sounded like a car backfiring,’ she said, ‘it sounded like a gunshot.’’
    • ‘With a sudden flash and the crack of a car backfiring, the machine surged to life again, its high-pitched shriek more earsplitting than ever.’
    • ‘Deafening car stereos, honking horns and noises like gun shots ring out as hundreds of drivers deliberately make their car engines backfire.’
    • ‘Since the ships were used to being heated up, a sudden blast of hot air on a cold engine could backfire the engine or even destroy vital components.’
    • ‘Dave continued to tighten his screw till abruptly the engine choked, backfired and died.’
    • ‘When my father turned around to go back in the house, we heard a loud noise like a car backfiring.’
    • ‘The supersonic jet was hit by an engine surge - like a car backfiring - then diverted to Cardiff airport en route to Heathrow, a spokesman said.’
    • ‘They ran into trouble in the centre of the city when the bus began backfiring.’
    • ‘When a backboard shatters, it sounds sort of similar to a gunshot or a car backfiring.’
    • ‘My mother could distinguish gunshots from a firecracker or a car backfiring.’
    • ‘A car backfired somewhere, the CD now flew upwards at a fresh angle and speed.’
    • ‘He goes on holiday to the beach in an odd little car that is constantly backfiring, and we follow him as he interacts with the other vacationers at a seaside hotel.’
    • ‘The car engine backfired in three sudden bursts as they drove off.’
    • ‘Few problems were encountered until two of the engines started backfiring and within two minutes had quit.’
    • ‘It was far too loud to be attributed to a car engine backfiring, and immediately drew the clientele to rush like moths against the window.’
    • ‘We hear stories of war veterans hitting the ground when they hear a car backfiring.’
  • 2(of a plan or action) rebound adversely on the originator; have the opposite effect to what was intended.

    ‘overzealous publicity backfired on her’
    • ‘They said the plan backfired when four times as many workers joined the unions than had left.’
    • ‘To my glee, Anthony didn't enjoy it much either, so his plan backfired.’
    • ‘Jenni is obviously jealous, and it looks like her plan has backfired.’
    • ‘Their plan backfired, and soon the fire grew out of control and they fled in panic.’
    • ‘However, his plan backfired and he was hung for treason in 1606.’
    • ‘Yeah, I love how Cale's plans keep backfiring on him.’
    • ‘This comes with the warning that this plan can backfire spectacularly.’
    • ‘But that strategy will backfire, because nobody will take the Council's recommendations seriously.’
    • ‘Rork had already risked so much and his plans kept backfiring.’
    • ‘Down the road, this policy could backfire badly on the US and on the caretaker government.’
    • ‘His scheme had backfired however, because he failed to check that I had any money in the first place.’
    • ‘Nothing can serious happen to them, as they are locked in their battle, and the worst thing that can happen is their plan backfiring.’
    • ‘These plans have backfired, however, leading to growing criticism of the sanctions policy.’
    • ‘I stayed quiet thinking that maybe she would think that she had just been hearing things but my plan backfired.’
    • ‘Due to the uprising the plan has backfired on an epic scale.’
    • ‘Gloria knew her plan had backfired and that she would have to come up with something better next time.’
    • ‘I have to say, if the idea was to persuade any of us that her followers are sane and rational people, the plan backfired in spectacular fashion.’
    • ‘Never before has a devious little plan backfired so badly.’
    • ‘However, the wait-and-see policy could backfire if those players manage to secure contracts elsewhere in the meantime.’
    • ‘However, his plan backfired as no one took him up on his offer.’
    rebound, boomerang, come back, have an adverse effect
    View synonyms


  • 1A mistimed explosion in the cylinder or exhaust of a vehicle or engine.

    • ‘On the battlefield, this engine produced a loud backfire when starting, instantly drawing enemy fire.’
    • ‘‘It sounded like a backfire - and then somebody hooted and shouted to me to hop out of the vehicle as it was on fire,’ she said.’
    • ‘However, just a few days later the aircraft suffered serious damage following a fire started by an engine backfire.’
    • ‘My legs were JeIl-O when I walked away from them, and a passing car's backfire nearly stopped my heart.’
    • ‘As the landing gear was being retracted, he felt a slight hesitation and mild backfire with the left engine.’
    • ‘I handled that okay, but it just so happened that a farmer was running a tractor nearby and managed to produce a loud backfire just as we reached the stream.’
    • ‘And I heard this - it was a shot, but it sounded like a backfire.’
    • ‘My favourites are still the RX7 rotaries, which give magnificent flameouts and backfires from the exhaust when the drivers lift their foot off the accelerator.’
    • ‘A slight backfire on starting could burn the engine off the wing!’
  • 2North American A fire set intentionally to arrest the progress of an approaching fire by creating a burned area in its path, thus depriving the fire of fuel.

    • ‘Fires were initially started as backfires to blacken areas adjacent to firelines.’
    • ‘That's when we lit a backfire, which the raging combination fire drew toward itself automatically.’
    • ‘For both fires, portions of the barrens sample area were burned by the backfire flame while other portions were burned by a more intense headfire.’
    • ‘The gusty wind prevented the air tanker drops of retardant, and use of backfires that are key tactics of fire containment.’
    • ‘Ironically it was a backfire, set to contain the prescribed burn, that was caught by unexpected wind gusts and roared out of control.’
    • ‘Around Summerhaven, crews using hand torches, which drip flame to start backfires, and aided by air tankers succeeded on Sunday in keeping the fire away from dozens of surviving homes and an observatory.’
    • ‘Most flame weeders on the market are the same ones used by fire fighters to set backfires.’