What Does A Burnt Child Dreads the Fire Mean?

A Burnt Child Dreads the Fire Meaning

Definition: People avoid the things that have hurt them.

Origin of A Burnt Child Dreads the Fire

This proverb appeared in the year 1320. It was in a collection of proverbs called The Proverbs of Hendyng. The original wording and spelling was brend child fur dreadeth.

Examples of A Burnt Child Dreads the Fire

define burnt child dreads the fireIn this example, a college student remembers that his friend lied to him in the past. He won’t let his friend hurt him with lies again.

Karl: That was a great party we had!

Frank: Yeah, it was. Now, all we have left to do is clean up the mess all of our friends left.

Karl: Okay. Why don’t you start cleaning now, and I’ll come help you in about 20 minutes? I have to run a quick errand before I can start.

Frank: Absolutely not.

Karl: What? Why not?

Frank: You said the same thing the last time we had a party. You told me that you would help me clean up in a few minutes, and then you disappeared for three days! I had to clean up everything by myself.

Karl: I apologized for that. It won’t happen again.

Frank: I’m sorry, Karl. A burnt child dreads the fire. I can’t take the chance that you’ll do it again, so I won’t let you leave until this apartment is clean.

meaning of a burnt child dreads fireIn this example, two friends use the idiom at an outdoor concert.

Lily: Hey! I bought some funnel cake from that vendor over there. Do you want some?

Grace: No, thanks. Unfortunately, I can’t eat food at concerts or fairs. The food at those types of places always makes me sick.

Lily: But this is a different concert than those other ones. How do you know you’ll get sick if you eat food from here?

Grace: A burnt child dreads the fire. I can’t risk food poisoning again, even if the food does look and smell delicious. You go ahead and eat it all.

Lily: Okay. If you’re sure.

More Examples

In the below excerpt, a phone company is very careful. This is because they made a mistake before and don’t want to make it again.

  • Samsung suffered a great deal this year with rampant battery explosions of Note 7. Thanks to Galaxy S7, the situation got tackled and the reputation was saved to a great extent. A burnt child dreads the fire and the Korean giant is being extremely cautious at every step to avoid any trouble in future. –TechPLZ

This excerpt is about a sport called kabaddi. The article uses the proverb to explain how a kabaddi team lost. After that, they worked extra hard to avoid losing again.

A burnt child dreads the fire.

India’s growth in stature at the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup has been a classic case of that. Coming into the competition as defending champions and heavy favourites, there was an air of invincibility about Anup Kumar’s side. But in the very first game, South Korea shattered that notion by handing them a 34-32 defeat. –First Post


The phrase a burnt child dreads the fire is a way to explain that those who are hurt or scared often try very hard not to be hurt or scared in the same way again. They are more cautious than others.