What Does Add Fuel to the Fire Mean?

Add Fuel to the Fire Meaning

Definition: To make an intense situation more intense.

Most people use this to describe a bad situation that has gotten worse. An alternative form is add fuel to the flame.

Origin of Add Fuel to the Fire

This expression existed in Latin around the year 1AD. The Roman historian Titus Livius used this expression in his history of Rome.

Examples of Add Fuel to the Fire

meaning of add fuel to the fireIn the conversation below, two friends discuss a third friend’s recent breakup.

Scott: Did you hear that Stacey and Ned are in a big fight?

Tony: No, I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?

Scott: Well, I guess Ned is still in love with Nancy, and Stacey found out.

Tony: Wow, it sounds like a pretty contentious situation.

Scott: Yeah. Maybe I should tell Stacey not to stress about it. Ned loved Nancy for years and years, ever since they were children. It will take some time for him to move on.

Tony: I don’t know. That sounds like it will only add fuel to the fire. I don’t think it will help them to stop fighting. Maybe you’d better just stay out of it.

define adding fuel to the fireTwo coworkers use the expression while talking about a political scandal.

Richard: Miranda, did you see the news last night? They say that the mayor tried to rig the election.

Miranda: Really? That’s wild! What did the mayor say?

Richard: Some reporters surprised him when he was leaving his gym. He told them that he hadn’t done very much to rig the election, just a little.

Miranda: So he admitted it!

Richard: Yes! He didn’t mean to admit it, and he tried to say he meant to say something else. But, of course, it had already added fuel to the fire. The whole town is calling for him to resign.

More Examples

The first example is about farmers who are scared they won’t be able to use chemicals on their farms. Doctors added more information about chemicals’ harmful effects, which made the farmers even more scared.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics added fuel to the fire last month with a policy statement that linked prenatal and early-childhood exposure to chemical pesticides with pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems. –Denver Post

The second example is about students who had an intense debate about religion.

  • When she tried to draw on facts and reason, pointing out that most victims of jihadists are peace-loving Muslims — including innocent girls being molested and murdered by the likes of Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Taliban in Afghanistan — it only added fuel to the fire. –New York Daily News


The phrase add fuel to the fire means to do something to worsen an already bad situation by increasing the anger or hostility.