Too Many Irons in the Fire

Meaning of Idiom ‘Too Many Irons in the Fire’

To have too many irons in the fire means to be engaged in too many activities or undertakings at once and thus to be unable to give adequate attention to any one of them, therefore risking failure or mistakes; doing too many things so that none of them are done well; having too many things to do or more projects than one can handle; being too busy. 1Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.,2Spears, Richard A. McGraw-Hill’s American Idioms Dictionary. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008.,3Ammer, Christine. The Dictionary of Cliches: a Word Lover’s Guide to 4,000 Overused Phrases and Almost-Pleasing Platitudes. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014.

Examples Of Use

“You’ve got too many irons in the fire as it is. Are you sure you want to take on another project?”

“I can’t come over right now. I’ve got too many irons in the fire right now.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t get the assignment done on time. I just had too many irons in the fire.”

“Mack is working two jobs while trying to raise his kids alone. He’s got way too many irons in the fire and yet he still makes time to help his mother.”

too many irons in the fire idiom meaning


Used since the mid-1500s, this idiom comes from blacksmithing, where, if a smithy heated too many pieces of metal in the forge (fire) at once, he risked ruining the forging of some of them.

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