hold your feet to the fire


hold your feet to the fire


  • insist that someone fulfill their promises or obligations.
  • demand that someone deliver on their commitments.
  • pressure or force someone to meet their responsibilities.
  • subject someone to punishment or consequences for failing to do their duty.
  • aggressively demand results and accountability.
  • insist on follow-through and make sure things get done.

Example Sentences

  1. The management will hold your feet to the fire to ensure that you fulfill the project deadline.
  2. The CEO held the new managers’ feet to the fire and insisted they meet aggressive sales targets in their first quarter.
  3. Members of Congress held the cabinet secretaries’ feet to the fire for too many management failures in their departments.
  4. Activists held politicians’ feet to the fire on issues like climate change and economic inequality.
  5. Parents often have to hold their children’s feet to the fire to ensure they fulfill their chores and homework responsibilities.
  6. The board of directors held the CEO’s feet to the fire over the company’s poor financial performance.
  7. As the project lead, she held the rest of the team’s feet to the fire to ensure we shipped the product on schedule.
  8. My manager held my feet to the fire when I struggled to meet deadlines and deliver high-quality work. I knew I had to step up or face serious consequences.


“Hold someone’s feet to the fire” means to insist that someone fulfill their promises or obligations. Its origin dates back to medieval torture practices. In the Middle Ages, captives or accused criminals sometimes held their feet over a fire or other flame until the flesh burned off, causing intense pain. Some sources claim that this form of torture consisted of tying someone’s feet to a metal frame or grate and then heating the soles of their feet. This would cause intense pain and be used to elicit information or confessions from prisoners. By metaphorical extension, ‘holding someone’s feet to the fire’ meant subjecting someone to punishment for failing to meet their duties.

Over time, the idiom took on a looser meaning and is often used simply to indicate pressure or demand that someone live up to their responsibilities, commitments, or agreements.

Though the original imagery was gruesome, the idiom has endured for hundreds of years and remains widely used today to represent accountability and follow-through. Its dark and disturbing origins have faded into the background, leaving only its figurative meaning and colorful expression.

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