This rarely heard idiom has existed since the early 1800’s.
As an idiom, to hangfire (or hang fire) means to delay an action or to be delayed in an accomplishment or action; to come to no distinct result; to fail to achieve an expected result.
The literal meaning of hangfire or hang-fire comes from military action or from guns or other military weapons. A misfire is when a charge fails to explode and a gun does not go off.
A hangfire, on the other hand, is when there is an appreciable delay between attempting to fire a gun and the gun actually firing. This could be caused by the gun needing further priming, so a gun would be said to be hanging fire until it could be fixed. Although modern guns have been improved to the extent that hangfires are extremely rare, in the past they were common.
Hangfire can also mean an order to delay fire on the battlefield until some action could be carried out was an order to hang fire. To hang fire was to hold your fire.
As an idiom, hang fire is an allusion to this delay of an expected action or result.
More Idioms Starting with H
More Fire Idioms
More Gun Idioms
More Hang Idioms
More Military Related Idioms
- Up The Creek (Without a Paddle)
- Tell That To The Marines!
- Take French Leave
- Marching Orders (To Get One’s)
- Last-Ditch (effort, attempt)
- Get A Fix On (something)
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