Definitions

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

  • n. A large fire built outdoors, as for signaling or in celebration of an event.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A fire in which bones were burned.
  • n. A fire to burn unwanted or disreputable items or people: proscribed books, heretics etc.
  • n. A large, controlled outdoor fire, as a signal or to celebrate something.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A large fire built in the open air, as an expression of public joy and exultation, or for amusement.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A fire of bones.
  • n. A funeral pile; a pyre.
  • n. A fire for the burning of heretics, proscribed books, etc.
  • n. Any great blazing fire made in the open air for amusement, or for the burning of brushwood, weeds, rubbish, etc. Specifically
  • n. A fire kindled, usually in some open and conspicuous place, such as a hill-top or public square, as an expression of public joy or exultation, or as a beacon.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a large outdoor fire that is lighted as a signal or in celebration

Etymologies

Middle English bonnefire : bon, bone; see bone + fir, fire; see fire.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English bonefire, bonefyre, banefyre ("a fire in which bones were burnt"), equivalent to bone +‎ fire. Cognate with Scots banefire ("bonfire"). More at bone, fire. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Also, a bonfire is always fun; and here was an excellent excuse for the children to keep one going all day and every day, piling it high with Clem's big bramble-faggots and roasting potatoes (very unevenly) in the intervals.

    Mrs. Miniver

  • This financial bonfire is our Reichtag fire, and our real Fuhrer, Paulson, is requesting emergency dictatorial powers to save the nation from nonexistent, unbridled capitalism.

    The Highway Robber State « Antiwar.com Blog

  • Roasting pies in the sky on a big-ass bonfire is no way to get ahead in life.

    Your Right Hand Thief

  • I think she was trying to say blindfold and kept saying the word bonfire instead.

    Archive 2008-04-01

  • And he recalled with particular gratitude a certain bonfire in Carcassonne.

    Backlogs of History

  • The proposed reform was part of a Governmentwide drive to sweep away red tape in what was described as a "bonfire of regulations" aimed at stimulating business and economic growth.

    Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph

  • Sechseläuten, or, The Snowman Explodes today was Sechseläuten, a traditional zürich festival which supposedly forecasts the type of summer we will have, and how long it will be until we see some damn sun around here again. a huge bonfire is built in the big park at bellevue, with a cotton snowman (the charmingly named 'böögg') perched on top, loaded with fireworks and explosives. the quicker mr böögg explodes and bursts apart, the better our summer wil be. according to today's exploding snowman, the sun will take 17.51 days to get here. i don't know if i can wait that long!

    Sechseläuten, or, The Snowman Explodes

  • Last summer the culture secretary announced swingeing cuts and closures among the 55 public bodies that fall under the remit of the DCMS – which include the Arts Council, Sport England and the British Library – as part of a so-called "bonfire of the quangos".

    Jeremy Hunt's UK Film Council plan criticised by audit office

  • Among the arm's length list of performances around Ubud, the fifty half-naked sweaty men dancing the Cak Rina around a bonfire is the most dramatic.

    Cynthia Rosenfeld: Bali: My Isle of the Gods Address Book

  • In the most damning formal assessment of the government's performance to date, the Commons public administration select committee says the coalition has "poorly managed" its so-called bonfire of the quangos, and failed to achieve its two main aims – to improve accountability and reduce spending, meaning the reorganisation could now cost more than it will save.

    MPs condemn coalition's bonfire of the quangos as botched

Comments

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  • If I could write words
    Like leaves on an autumn forest floor,
    What a bonfire my letters would make.

    - Spike Milligan, 'If I could write words'.

    August 8, 2009

  • I love this word. I won a $10 bet with a guy who thought it meant "good fire."

    May 27, 2009

  • I think very interesting that early use and early meaning of "bonfire" had an intimate relationship with bones.

    What was going on?

    Thanks,

    Paul

    March 26, 2009

  • Or in Indiana, a ft. waynefire. OK--that's embarrassing. I should know better than to try to out-pun you, si. I yield...

    October 24, 2007

  • Or in Hamlet, a danefire.

    October 24, 2007

  • Or in Camelot, a gawainfire.

    October 24, 2007

  • I guess, in cawden, you could have had a thanefire.

    October 24, 2007

  • From Middle English banefire, a fire on which bones were burned.

    October 24, 2007