Etymology
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fire (n.)

Old English fyr "fire, a fire," from Proto-Germanic *fūr- (source also of Old Saxon fiur, Old Frisian fiur, Old Norse fürr, Middle Dutch and Dutch vuur, Old High German fiur, German Feuer "fire"), from PIE *perjos, from root *paewr- "fire." Current spelling is attested as early as 1200, but did not fully displace Middle English fier (preserved in fiery) until c. 1600.

PIE apparently had two roots for fire: *paewr- and *egni- (source of Latin ignis). The former was "inanimate," referring to fire as a substance, and the latter was "animate," referring to it as a living force (compare water (n.1)).

Brend child fuir fordredeþ ["The Proverbs of Hendyng," c. 1250]

English fire was applied to "ardent, burning" passions or feelings from mid-14c. Meaning "discharge of firearms, action of guns, etc." is from 1580s. To be on fire is from c. 1500 (in fire attested from c. 1400, as is on a flame "on fire"). To play with fire in the figurative sense "risk disaster, meddle carelessly or ignorantly with a dangerous matter" is by 1861, from the common warning to children. Phrase where's the fire?, said to one in an obvious hurry, is by 1917, American English.

Fire-bell is from 1620s; fire-alarm as a self-acting, mechanical device is from 1808 as a theoretical creation; practical versions began to appear in the early 1830s. Fire-escape (n.) is from 1788 (the original so-called was a sort of rope-ladder disguised as a small settee); fire-extinguisher is from 1826. A fire-bucket (1580s) carries water to a fire. Fire-house is from 1899; fire-hall from 1867, fire-station from 1828. Fire company "men for managing a fire-engine" is from 1744, American English. Fire brigade "firefighters organized in a body in a particular place" is from 1838. Fire department, usually a branch of local government, is from 1805. Fire-chief is from 1877; fire-ranger from 1887.

Symbolic fire and the sword is by c. 1600 (translating Latin flamma ferroque absumi); earlier yron and fyre (1560s), with suerd & flawme (mid-15c.), mid fure & mid here ("with fire and armed force"), c. 1200. Fire-breathing is from 1590s. To set the river on fire, "accomplish something surprising or remarkable" (usually with a negative and said of one considered foolish or incompetent) is by 1830, often with the name of a river, varying according to locality, but the original is set the Thames on fire (1796). The hypothetical feat was mentioned as the type of something impossibly difficult by 1720; it circulated as a theoretical possibility under some current models of chemistry c. 1792-95, which may have contributed to the rise of the expression.

[A]mong other fanciful modes of demonstrating the practicability of conducting the gas wherever it might be required, he anchored a small boat in the stream about 50 yards from the shore, to which he conveyed a pipe, having the end turned up so as to rise above the water, and forcing the gas through the pipe, lighted it just above the surface, observing to his friends "that he had now set the river on fire." ["On the Origins and Progress of Gas-lighting," in "Repertory of Patent Inventions," vol. III, London, 1827]
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field (n.)

Old English feld "plain, pasture, open land, cultivated land" (as opposed to woodland), also "a parcel of land marked off and used for pasture or tillage," probably related to Old English folde "earth, land," from Proto-Germanic *felthan "flat land" (Cognates: Old Saxon and Old Frisian feld "field," Old Saxon folda "earth," Middle Dutch velt, Dutch veld Old High German felt, German Feld "field," but not found originally outside West Germanic; Swedish fält, Danish felt are borrowed from German; Finnish pelto "field" is believed to have been adapted from Proto-Germanic). This is from PIE *pel(e)-tu-, from root *pele- (2) "flat; to spread." The English spelling with -ie- probably is the work of Anglo-French scribes (compare brief, piece).

As "battle-ground," c. 1300. Meaning "sphere or range of any related things" is from mid-14c. Physics sense is from 1845. Collective use for "all engaged in a sport" (or, in horse-racing, all but the favorite) is 1742; play the field "avoid commitment" (1936) is from notion of gamblers betting on other horses than the favorite. Cricket and baseball sense of "ground on which the game is played" is from 1875. Sense of "tract of ground where something is obtained or extracted" is from 1859. As an adjective in Old English combinations, often with a sense of "rural, rustic" (feldcirice "country-church," feldlic "rural"). Of slaves, "assigned to work in the fields" (1817, in field-hand), opposed to house. A field-trial (1865) originally was of hunting dogs; the term was used earlier in reference to crops (1817).

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fire (v.)

c. 1200, furen, "arouse, inflame, excite" (a figurative use); literal sense of "set fire to" is attested from late 14c., from fire (n.). The Old English verb fyrian "to supply with fire" apparently did not survive into Middle English. Related: Fired; firing.

Meaning "expose to the effects of heat or fire" (of bricks, pottery, etc.) is from 1660s. Meaning "to discharge artillery or a firearm" (originally by application of fire) is from 1520s; extended sense of "to throw (as a missile)" is from 1580s. Fire away in the figurative sense of "go ahead" is from 1775.

The sense of "sack, dismiss from employment" is recorded by 1877 (with out; 1879 alone) in American English. This probably is a play on the two meanings of discharge (v.): "to dismiss from a position," and "to fire a gun," influenced by the earlier general sense "throw (someone) out" of some place (1871). To fire out "drive out by or as if by fire" (1520s) is in Shakespeare and Chapman. Fired up "angry" is from 1824 (to fire up "become angry" is from 1798).

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field (v.)

"to go out to fight," 16c., from field (n.) in the specific sense of "battlefield" (Old English). The sports meaning "to stop and return the ball" is first recorded 1823, originally in cricket; figurative sense of this is from 1902. Related: Fielded; fielding.

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center-field (n.)

also centerfield, 1857 in baseball, "the middle third of the outfield," from center (n.) + field (n.). Related: Center-fielder.

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field-work (n.)

1767, "gathering statistics or doing research out-of-doors or on-site," from field (n.) + work (n.). From 1819 in reference to a type of military fortification raised by troops in the field.

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field-glass (n.)

magnifying apparatus, by 1836, so called from being used in the field; see field (n.) + glass (n.).

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fire-walker (n.)

one who walks barefoot over hot coals without injury, as an entertainment, etc., 1895, from fire (n.) + agent noun from walk (v.). Related: Fire-walking.

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fire-ant (n.)

1796, from fire (n.) + ant. So called for their bite.

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field-day (n.)

1747, originally a day of military exercise and review (see field (v.)); figurative sense "any day of unusual bustle, exertion, or display" [Century Dictionary] is from 1827.

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