Etymology
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wildfire (n.)
late Old English wilde fyr "destructive fire" (perhaps caused by lightning); also "erysipelas, spreading skin disease;" see wild (adj.) + fire (n.). From c. 1300 as "Greek fire," also fire rained down from the sky as divine retribution. Figurative sense from late 14c. By 1795 as "sheet lightning."
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brunt (n.)
late 14c., "a sharp blow," of uncertain origin, perhaps from Old Norse brundr "sexual heat," or bruna "to advance like wildfire" (said of a ship under sail, etc.). Meaning "chief force, the heaviest or worst (of something)," as in bear the brunt, is from early 15c.
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backfire (n.)
1832, American English, originally "a fire deliberately lit ahead of an advancing wildfire to deprive it of fuel," from back (adj.) + fire (n.). As a verb in this sense, recorded from 1886. The noun meaning "premature ignition in an internal-combustion engine" is first recorded 1897. AS a verb, of schemes, plans, etc., "to affect the initiator rather than the intended object" it is attested from 1912, a figurative use from the accidental back-firing of firearms.
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absquatulate (v.)
"run away, make off," 1840, earlier absquotilate (1837), "Facetious U.S. coinage" [Weekley], perhaps based on a mock-Latin negation of squat (v.) "to settle." Said to have been used on the London stage in in the lines of rough, bragging, comical American character "Nimrod Wildfire" in the play "The Kentuckian" as re-written by British author William B. Bernard, perhaps it was in James K. Paulding's American original, "The Lion of the West." Civil War slang established skedaddle in its place. Related: Absquatulated; absquatulating; absquatulation.
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