The phrase "iron in the fire" is often used to talk about having multiple opportunities or tasks going on at the same time. It could be projects, jobs, or any other endeavors a person is involved with. The phrase is generally used to express that you're keeping busy or have various options to fall back on.
When someone says they have "an iron in the fire," they're talking about an ongoing task or opportunity they're engaged in. For example, if you're working a day job while also starting a side business and going to school part-time, you'd say you have several irons in the fire. The phrase points to multiple efforts or commitments you're juggling at the same time.
Let's break it down:
The idiom “iron in the fire” is believed to originate from the practice of blacksmithing. An efficient, skilled blacksmith would have the right amount of irons in the fire, irons that he could deal with comfortably. An over-ambitious smith might have too many irons in the fire and thus not be able to deal with them all. Since the mid-16th century, the expression has been used figuratively, where irons are options or plans of action.
To help you understand how to use "iron in the fire," let's look at some real-life examples:
This phrase is often used in movies, TV shows, or books to talk about multitasking or having backup plans:
If you're looking for other ways to talk about having multiple options or tasks, consider these:
The phrase "iron in the fire" can be used both literally and figuratively. In its literal sense, it refers to a piece of iron being heated in a fire, usually for blacksmithing. Figuratively, it means having multiple projects, responsibilities, or opportunities going on at the same time.
You can use the phrase to talk about multitasking or having backup plans. For instance, "She has several irons in the fire, with her job, side business, and volunteer work."
"Iron in the fire" is a flexible phrase and can be used in various settings like workplaces, casual conversations, and even in academia. It's often used to talk about diversifying efforts or interests.
The phrase itself doesn't show if multitasking is good or bad; it just states that someone has multiple tasks or opportunities at hand. The context usually provides that info.
The saying is quite old, originating from blacksmithing, but it's still widely used today to describe multitasking or having multiple projects.
The phrase doesn't necessarily suggest either caution or risk-taking. It's more about having multiple options or tasks, which could be either risky or safe, depending on the situation.
Yes, you'll often hear "iron in the fire" in business settings when discussing multiple ventures, projects, or revenue streams.
Yes, in some contexts it can imply overcommitment or lack of focus if someone has too many irons in the fire.
It's not as popular as some phrases but you will occasionally hear it in movies or read it in books when characters are involved in multiple tasks or facing various challenges.
No, the phrase cuts across all age groups. It's a common way to express the idea of juggling multiple tasks or opportunities, regardless of one's age.
The idiom "iron in the fire" is a versatile way to talk about multitasking or having multiple plans or options. It's equally used at home in casual conversations and formal settings, like the workplace.
Here's a quick recap: