AskDefine | Define burn

Dictionary Definition



1 pain that feels hot as if it were on fire [syn: burning]
2 a browning of the skin resulting from exposure to the rays of the sun [syn: tan, suntan, sunburn]
3 an injury cause by exposure to heat or chemicals or radiation
4 a burned place or area [syn: burn mark]
5 damage inflicted by burning


1 destroy by fire; "They burned the house and his diaries" [syn: fire, burn down]
2 shine intensely, as if with heat; "The coals were glowing in the dark"; "The candles were burning" [syn: glow]
3 undergo combustion; "Maple wood burns well" [syn: combust]
4 cause a sharp or stinging pain or discomfort; "The sun burned his face" [syn: bite, sting]
5 cause to burn or combust; "The sun burned off the fog"; "We combust coal and other fossil fuels" [syn: combust]
6 feel strong emotion, especially anger or passion; "She was burning with anger"; "He was burning to try out his new skies"
7 cause to undergo combustion; "burn garbage"; "The car burns only Diesel oil" [syn: incinerate]
8 burn at the stake; "Witches were burned in Salem"
9 spend (significant amounts of money); "He has money to burn"
10 feel hot or painful; "My eyes are burning"
11 burn, sear, or freeze (tissue) using a hot iron or electric current or a caustic agent; "The surgeon cauterized the wart" [syn: cauterize, cauterise]
12 get a sunburn by overexposure to the sun [syn: sunburn]
13 create by duplicating data; "cut a disk"; "burn a CD" [syn: cut]
14 use up (energy); "burn off calories through vigorous exercise" [syn: burn off, burn up]
15 burn with heat, fire, or radiation; "The iron burnt a hole in my dress" [also: burnt]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • , /bɜː(r)n/, /b3:(r)n/
  • Rhymes with: -ɜː(r)n


Etymology 1

From birnan, beornan and brenna.


  1. A physical injury caused by heat or caustic chemicals.
    She had second-degree burns from falling in the bonfire.
  2. The act of burning something.
    They’re doing a controlled burn of the fields.
  3. Physical sensation in the muscles following strenuous exercise, caused by build-up of lactic acid.
    One and, two and, keep moving; feel the burn!
  4. An intense non-physical sting, as left by an effective insult.
a physical injury caused by heat or caustic chemicals
  • Albanian: djegje
  • Croatian: opeklina; opekotina
  • Danish: brandsår, forbrænding
  • Dutch: brandwond, verbranding
  • Esperanto: brulvundo
  • Finnish: palovamma
  • German: Brandwunde, Verbrennung
  • Hebrew: כוויה
  • Hungarian: égés, égési sérülés
  • Italian: bruciatura, ustione
  • Japanese: やけど, 焼け焦げ
  • Kurdish: سوتان
  • Norwegian: brannsår, forbrending
  • Portuguese: queimadura
  • Russian: ожог
  • Scottish Gaelic: allt, losgadh
  • Slovene: opeklina
  • Spanish: quemadura
  • Swedish: brännskada, brännmärke
the act of burning something
  • Albanian: djegje
  • Croatian: paljenje
  • Danish: afbrænding
  • Dutch: verbranding, afbranden
  • Esperanto: brulo, brulado
  • Finnish: polttaminen, poltto
  • German: Verbrennung
  • Norwegian: forbrenning
  • Russian: сжигание
  • Scottish Gaelic: losgadh
  • Slovene: prižiganje
  • Swedish: förbränning
physical sensation in the muscles following strenuous exercise
  • Albanian: djegje
  • Dutch: branden, branderigheid
  • Finnish: poltto
intense non-physical sting
  • Dutch: pijn


  1. To be consumed by fire, or at least in flames.
    He watched the house burn.
  2. To become overheated so as to make unusable.
    The grill was too hot and the steak was burned.
  3. To feel hot, e.g. due to embarrassment.
    Her cheeks burned with shame.
  4. To sunburn.
    She forgot to put on sunscreen and burned.
  5. In the context of "intransitive|curling": To accidentally touch a moving stone.
  6. In the context of "transitive|ergative": To cause to be consumed by fire.
    He burned his manuscript in the fireplace.
  7. In the context of "transitive|ergative": To overheat so as to make unusable.
    He burned the toast.
  8. To injure (a person or animal) with heat or caustic chemicals.
    She burned the child with an iron, and was put in jail for ten years.
  9. In the context of "transitive|slang": To betray.
    The informant burned him.
  10. In the context of "transitive|computing": To write data to a permanent storage medium like a compact disc or a ROM chip.
    We’ll burn this program onto an E-PROM one hour before the demo begins.
  11. To waste (time).
    We have an hour to burn.
  12. In the context of "transitive|slang": To insult or defeat.
    I just burned you again.
  13. In the context of "transitive|cards": In pontoon, to swap a pair of cards for another pair. Also to deal a dead card.
be consumed by fire
  • Bosnian: gorjeti
  • Breton: devi, leski
  • Chinese: 烧
  • Crimean Tatar:
  • Croatian: gorjeti
  • Czech: hořet
  • Danish: brænde, brænde op
  • Dutch: branden, verbranden
  • Esperanto: bruli
  • Finnish: palaa
  • French: brûler
  • German: brennen
  • Hebrew: להישרף
  • Hungarian: ég, elég
  • Icelandic: brenna
  • Indonesian: bakar
  • Italian: bruciare, ardere, incendiare
  • Japanese: 燃える; 焼ける
  • Kurdish:
    Sorani: سوتان
  • Polish: palić
  • Portuguese: queimar, pirar, arder
  • Russian: гореть, пылать
  • Serbian: goreti
  • Scottish Gaelic: loisg
  • Slovene: goreti
  • Spanish: quemar, arder
  • Sumerian
  • Swedish: brinna
  • Telugu: కాలు (kaalu)
  • Norwegian: brenne
become overheated
  • Dutch: aanbranden, verbranden
  • Japanese: 焦げる (kogeru)
feel hot
curling: accidentally touch a moving stone
cause to be consumed by fire
  • Dutch: laten aanbranden, verbranden
  • Japanese: 焦がす (kogasu)
injure (a person or animal) with heat or caustic chemicals
  • Dutch: verraden, in de steek laten
  • Norwegian: foræde
  • Portuguese: queimar
write data
  • Croatian: pržiti
  • Czech: vypálit
  • Dutch: branden
  • Finnish: polttaa
  • German: brennen
  • Norwegian: brenne
  • Portuguese: queimar
  • Swedish: bränna
waste (time)
slang: insult or defeat
  • Dutch: kwetsen, beledigen, liggen hebben
pontoon: swap a pair of cards for another pair; deal a dead card
to kill a person on a stake
  • Czech: upálit

Etymology 2

From born, burne.


  1. In the context of "Scottish|Northern English|Geordie": A stream.
Related terms
  • Dutch: stroom

Etymology 3

From , cognate with Brunne.


  1. brook, rivulet
  • Danish: bæk, strøm
  • Dutch: beek, sloot
  • German: Bach
  • Norwegian: bekk, strøm
  • Russian: ручей




  1. A small river.

Extensive Definition

A burn is an injury caused by heat, cold, electricity, chemicals, light, radiation, or friction. Burns can be highly variable in terms of the tissue affected, the severity, and resultant complications. Muscle, bone, blood vessel, and epidermal tissue can all be damaged with subsequent pain due to profound injury to nerve endings. Depending on the location affected and the degree of severity, a burn victim may experience a wide number of potentially fatal complications including shock, infection, electrolyte imbalance and respiratory distress. Beyond physical complications, burns can also result in severe psychological and emotional distress due to scarring and deformity.

Classification by degree

The most common system of classifying burns categorizes them as first-, second-, or third-degree. Sometimes this is extended to include a fourth or even up to a sixth degree, but most burns are first- to third-degree, with the higher-degree burns typically being used to classify burns post-mortem. The following are brief descriptions of these classes:
  • First-degree burns are usually limited to redness (erythema), a white plaque and minor pain at the site of injury. These burns only involve the epidermis.
  • Second-degree burns manifest as erythema with superficial blistering of the skin, and can involve more or less pain depending on the level of nerve involvement. Second-degree burns involve the superficial (papillary) dermis and may also involve the deep (reticular) dermis layer.
  • Third-degree burns occur when most of the epidermis is lost with damage to underlying ligaments, tendons and muscle. Burn victims will exhibit charring of the skin, and sometimes hard eschars will be present. An eschar is a scab that has separated from the unaffected part of the body. These types of burns are often considered painless, because nerve endings have been destroyed in the burned area. Hair follicles and sweat glands may also be lost due to complete destruction of the dermis. Third-degree burns result in scarring and may be fatal if the affected area is significantly large. If extensive enough, it can increase the risk of infection, including bacterial, and can result in death.
  • Fourth-degree burns damage bone tissue and may result in a condition called compartment syndrome, which threatens both the life of the limb and the patient. These are burns in which most of the hypodermis is lost, charring and exposing the muscle underneath. Fourth-degree burns are frequently fatal.

Other classifications

A newer classification of "Superficial Thickness", "Partial Thickness" (which is divided into superficial and deep categories) and "Full Thickness" relates more precisely to the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous layers of skin and is used to guide treatment and predict outcome.
Table 1. A description of the traditional and current classifications of burns. Burns can also be assessed in terms of total body surface area (TBSA), which is the percentage affected by partial thickness or full thickness burns (superficial thickness burns are not counted). The rule of nines is used as a quick and useful way to estimate the affected TBSA.

Causes of burns

Burns may be caused by a wide variety of substances and external sources such as exposure to chemicals, friction, electricity, radiation, and extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.
Most chemicals (but not all) that can cause moderate to severe chemical burns are strong acids or bases. Chemical burns are usually caused by caustic chemical compounds, such as sodium hydroxide, silver nitrate, and more serious compounds (such as sulfuric acid and Nitric acid). Hydrofluoric acid can cause damage down to the bone and its burns are sometimes not immediately evident.
Electrical burns are generally caused by an exogenous electric shock, such as being struck by lightning or defibrillated or cardioverted without a conductive gel. The internal injuries sustained may be disproportionate to the size of the burns seen, and the extent of the damage is not always obvious. Such injuries may lead to cardiac arrhythmias, cardiac arrest, and unexpected falls with resultant fractures.
Radiation burns may be caused by protracted and overexposure to UV light (as from the sun), tanning booths, radiation therapy (as patients who are undergoing cancer therapy), sunlamps, and X-rays. By far the most common burn associated with radiation is sun exposure, specifically two wavelengths of light UVA, and UVB, the latter being the more dangerous of the two. Tanning booths also emit these wavelengths and may cause similar damage to the skin such as irritation, redness, swelling, and inflammation. More severe cases of sun burn result in what is known as sun poisoning.


Scalding is a specific type of burning that is caused by hot liquids or gasses. They most commonly occur in the home from exposure to high temperature tap water. Steam is a common gas that causes scalds. The injury is usually regional and usually does not cause death. More damage can be caused if hot liquids enter an orifice. However, deaths have occurred in more unusual circumstances, such as when people have accidentally broken a steam pipe. The demographics that are of the highest risk to suffering from scalding are young children, with their delicate skin, and the elderly over 65 years of age.

Cold burn

A cold burn (see frostbite) is a kind of burn which arises when the skin is in contact with a low-temperature body. They can be caused by prolonged contact with moderately cold bodies (snow and cold air for instance) or brief contact with very cold bodies such as dry ice, liquid helium, liquid nitrogen, or liquid discharged from an upside-down gas duster. In such a case, the heat transfers from the skin and organs to the external cold body. The effects are very similar to that of a burn caused by extreme heat. The remedy is also the same. For a minor cold burn, it is advisable to keep the injured organ under a flow of water of comfortable temperature. This will allow heat to transfer slowly from the water to the organs.


A local anesthetic is usually sufficient in managing pain of minor first-degree and second-degree burns. However, systemic anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen may be effective in mitigating pain and swelling. Additionally, topical antibiotics such as Mycitracin are useful in preventing infection to the damaged area. Lidocaine can be administered to the spot of injury and will generally negate most of the pain. Regardless of the cause, the first step in managing a person with a burn is to stop the burning process at the source. For instance, with dry powder burns, the powder should be brushed off first. With other burns, such as those caused by exposure to chemicals, the affected area should be rinsed throughly with a large amount of clean water to remove the caustic agent and any foreign bodies. Cold water should not be applied to a person with extensive burns, however, as it may compromise the burn victim's temperature status.
If the patient was involved in a fire accident, then it must be assumed that he or she has sustained inhalation injury until proven otherwise, and treatment should be managed accordingly. At this stage of management, it is also critical to assess the airway status. Any hint of burn injury to the lungs (e.g. through smoke inhalation) is considered a medical emergency.
To help ease the suffering of a burn victim, they may be placed in a special burn recovery bed which evenly distributes body weight and helps to prevents painful pressure points and bed sores. Survival and outcome of severe burn injuries is remarkably improved if the patient is treated in a specialized burn center/unit rather than a hospital. Serious burns, especially if they cover large areas of the body, can result in death.
Once the burning process has been stopped, the patient should be volume resuscitated according to the Parkland formula, since such injuries can disturb a person's osmotic balance. This formula dictates the amount of Lactated Ringer's solution to deliver in the first twenty four hours after time of injury. This formula excludes first and most second degree burns. Half of the fluid should be given in the first eight hours post injury and the rest in the subsequent sixteen hours. The formula is a guide only and infusions must be tailored to the urine output and central venous pressure. Inadequate fluid resuscitation causes renal failure and death.
Hyperbaric oxygenation has been shown to be a useful adjunct to traditional treatments.


External links

burn in Czech: Popáleniny
burn in Danish: Brandsår
burn in German: Verbrennung (Medizin)
burn in Spanish: Quemadura
burn in French: Brûlure
burn in Italian: Ustione
burn in Hebrew: כווייה
burn in Latvian: Apdegumi
burn in Lithuanian: Nudegimas
burn in Dutch: Brandwond
burn in Japanese: 熱傷
burn in Occitan (post 1500): Cremadura
burn in Polish: Oparzenie
burn in Portuguese: Queimadura
burn in Russian: Ожог
burn in Slovak: Popálenina
burn in Finnish: Palovamma
burn in Swedish: Brännskada
burn in Turkish: Yanık
burn in Ukrainian: Опіки
burn in Chinese: 烧伤

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Earth insertion, LEM, LM, abrade, abrasion, adolescent stream, afflict, agonize, ail, air-dry, altitude peak, anhydrate, apogee, arroyo, assault, attack, attitude-control rocket, automatic control, bake, ballistic capsule, bank, barbarize, bark, batter, be bright, be in heat, be livid, be pissed, be warm, beacon, beam, beat, beat down, beck, bedazzle, beguile of, behead, bilk, bite, blacken, blast-off, blaze, blaze up, blemish, blind, blister, bloody, bloom, blot, blow down, blow up, bluster, boil, boil over, bourn, bowstring, braided stream, branch, brand, break, break down, bring down, bristle, broil, bronze, brook, brooklet, brown, browned off, brush, brutalize, bulldoze, bunco, burn down, burn in, burn off, burning, burning pain, burnout, burst into flame, butcher, capsule, carry on, cast, cast down, catch, catch fire, catch on fire, cauterize, ceiling, chafe, channel, char, cheat, check, chip, chisel, choke, chop down, chouse, chouse out of, claw, coal, cog, cog the dice, combust, con, concussion, conflagrate, consume, convulse, cook, cozen, crack, crackle, craze, creek, cremate, crib, crick, crucify, cupel, cure, cut, cut down, daze, dazzle, decapitate, decollate, deep-space ship, defenestrate, defraud, dehumidify, dehydrate, descent, desiccate, desire, destroy, diddle, diffuse light, distress, do in, do out of, docking, docking maneuver, drain, dry, electrocute, embrown, end of burning, enkindle, euchre, evaporate, excruciate, execute, exsiccate, fan the flame, feed, feed the fire, fell, ferry rocket, fester, finagle, fire, flam, flame, flame up, flare, flare up, flash, flash burn, flatten, fleece, flicker, flight, flimflam, flowing stream, flush, fluviation, fob, found, fracture, fray, frazzle, fresh, freshet, fret, fritter away, fry, fudge, fuel ship, fulgurate, fume, gall, garrote, gash, gasp, get wind of, gill, give light, give pain, glance, glare, gleam, glint, glow, gnaw, go on, gouge, gripe, guillotine, gull, gyp, hammer, harrow, have, have a conniption, hocus, hocus-pocus, hurt, ignite, ignition, impact, incandesce, incinerate, incise, incision, inflame, inflict capital punishment, inflict pain, infuscate, injection, injure, injury, insertion, insolate, irritate, itch, kill, kill by inches, kiln, kindle, knock down, knock over, lacerate, laceration, lapidate, launch, lay waste, lazy stream, lesion, level, lift-off, light, light up, long, loot, lunar excursion module, lunar module, luster, maim, make mincemeat of, manned rocket, martyr, martyrize, mat burn, maul, meandering stream, melt, midchannel, midstream, millstream, module, moon ship, mortal wound, moving road, mow down, mug, mulct, multistage rocket, mummify, mutilate, mutilation, navigable river, nip, nose out, orbit, overreach, oxidate, oxidize, pack the deal, pain, pant, parch, parking orbit, perigee, pierce, pigeon, pillage, pinch, pissed off, practice fraud upon, prick, prolong the agony, prostrate, pull down, puncture, put to death, put to torture, pyrolyze, race, racing stream, rack, radiate, radiate heat, rage, raise Cain, raise hell, raise the devil, raise the roof, ramp, rampage, rankle, rant, rant and rave, rape, rase, rasp, rave, raze, ream, reduce to ashes, reentry, rekindle, relight, relume, rend, rent, riot, rip, river, rivulet, roar, roast, rocket, rocket launching, rook, rub, ruin, run, rundle, runlet, runnel, rupture, rust, sack, savage, scald, scam, scent, scorch, scotch, scrape, scratch, screw, scuff, sear, second-degree burn, seethe, sell gold bricks, send out rays, set fire to, set on fire, shave, shimmer with heat, shine, shine brightly, shoot, shoot out rays, shortchange, shot, shrivel, shuttle rocket, sike, simmer, singe, sizzle, skin, slash, slaughter, slit, smart, smarting, smash, smell, smell out, smoke, smolder, smother, smoulder, sniff, sniff out, soak up, soft landing, solder, sore, sow chaos, space capsule, space docking, space rocket, spacecraft, spaceship, spark, spill stream, sponge, sprain, sputter, squander, stab, stab wound, stack the cards, steam, steamroller, stew, stick, stifle, sting, stinging, stir the fire, stoke, stoke the fire, stone, storm, strain, strangle, stream, stream action, streamlet, strike a light, subterranean river, suffocate, sun, sun-dry, sunburn, sunscald, suntan, swab, sweat, swelter, swindle, swinge, take, take a dive, take down, take on, tan, tear, tear around, tear down, terrorize, thimblerig, third-degree burn, throw a fight, throw a fit, throw away, throw down, tingle, tingling, toast, torch, torment, torrefy, torture, touch off, towel, trajectory, trauma, traumatize, tweak, twist, urtication, use, vandalize, velocity peak, vesicate, victimize, violate, vulcanize, wadi, warm, waste, watercourse, waterway, weazen, weld, windburn, wipe, wish, wither, wizen, wound, wounds immedicable, wreck, wrench, wring, yearn
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