Also: sure-fire

Meaning of Idiom ‘Surefire’

When something is sure-fire, it is bound to be effective or bring results; certain and infallible; very likely (to be successful).

Usage Notes

Sure-fire is used as an adjective and forms collocations with many different terms.

Sure-fire Collocations

  • sure-fire success
  • sure-fire solution
  • sure-fire strategy
  • sure-fire results
  • sure-fire winner
  • sure-fire hit
  • sure-fire recipe (for success, etc)
  • sure-fire way (to do something)

Examples Of Use

“I put my money on a sure-fire winner today. It’s going to pay off big.”

“The company has a sure-fire recipe for success in its social strategy.”

“He’s a sure-fire Oscar winner after this break-through performance.”

“I’m afraid we just don’t have a sure-fire solution to this problem. We’re going to have to wing it.”

“Driving your car before warming it up during the winter is a sure-fire way to ruin the engine.”


From the late-1700s or earlier, the term sure fire was used to refer to gunpowder that was sure to light or guns that were sure to fire. Early guns were notoriously unreliable, so a weapon that was guaranteed to fire was an important advance, so important that it led to the term being taken up into general use, by the mid-1800s, for anything that is a ‘sure thing.’