Add Fuel to the Fire (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Add Fuel to the Fire"?

The term "add fuel to the fire" means to make a bad situation worse, to aggravate an already tricky situation, or to make someone more annoyed. (This saying is sometimes said as "add fuel to the flames.")
Add Fuel to the Fire (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • The public are already annoyed with the cost of living. This announcement will add fuel to the fire.
  • John, please stop antagonizing Sarah. You're just adding fuel to the fire.
  • If you arrest their leader, you will add fuel to the fire.
  • Do not approach the CEO with the reasoning behind your decision. It will just add fuel to the fire.
In this idiom, the word "fire" (or sometimes "flames") is a metaphor for a bad situation. The word "fuel" is the aggravation or worsening. Of note, this saying is an example of alliteration, which adds to its popularity.

"Add fuel to the fire" originates from Roman times. The saying features in Roman historian Titus Livius's "Ab urbe condita" (From the Founding of the City), which was written 27-9 BC.

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