baptism of fire love

baptism of fire


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A soldier's first experience of actual combat conditions.
  • n. A severe ordeal experienced for the first time.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The first experience of a severe ordeal, especially a first experience of military combat


Sorry, no etymologies found.


    Sorry, no example sentences found.


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  • I've heard this and "trial by fire" to mean starting under the worst possible conditions.

    May 2, 2009

  • I neglected to wish you a happy ANZAC Day, frindley... if that doesn't sound too weird...

    April 27, 2009

  • I agree with dontcry. Baptism by fire is baptism done under fire, baptism of fire seems like it would put the fire out.

    April 27, 2009

  • I've always heard it, and used it as baptism by fire. Meaning hitting the ground running -- or starting off on something under the worst possible conditions...

    April 27, 2009

  • It's always been intuitive for me: baptism of water = soft, gentle, orderly:- ergo opposite = baptism of fire.

    April 25, 2009

  • Interestingly, I never heard this phrase until I lived in Australia (many moons ago), and since returning to the U.S., I hardly ever hear it! Of course it's got a very understandable/recognizable meaning, but I always think of Australia when I hear it—specifically of Gallipoli—and only just now it dawns on me that maybe that's because I did a big project on Australian war veterans...

    In the U.S. Civil War (just to continue the tangential nature of comments...), soldiers referred to their first experience of battle as 'seeing the elephant' or 'seeing the big show.'

    April 25, 2009

  • Rarely: ordeal, martyrdom. Frequently: a soldier's first experience of battle. As a result, and more generally: a tough first encounter with anything, especially when the training or preparation is necessarily insufficient. The latter is primarily how I use it and hear it used. (For example, I arrived at my job in the United States the week when the Executive Dir. was on vacation and we were staging the first concerts of the season. To say it was full on was an understatement. Two phrases were thrown about: "thrown in the deep end" and "baptism of fire".)

    Background is interesting as it appears there's a religious meaning and a military meaning and the conflation of the two in English may have come about from a mishearing or mistranslation of a French phrase. (As of writing, Wikipedia's entry on this phrase "corrects" the French without explanation, cites Online Etymology.)

    Baptism of fire (in the more literal sense of ordeal, martyrdom) has biblical origins, e.g. Matthew 3:11 "I indeed baptise you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire."

    Baptism of fire (military sense) first appears in O'Meara's Napoleon in Exile, 1822: "I love a brave soldier who has undergone, le baptême du fer, whatever nation he may belong to." In other words a baptism of iron or a baptism of the blade. This informative site gives the English "baptism of fire" as first appearing 1857.

    (See bilby's Anzac Day list for the comments that sent me off on this tangent.)

    April 25, 2009