under fire

under fire

Meaning | Synonyms

  • being shot at
  • being thoroughly criticized
  • subject to extreme criticism or judgment
  • in the situation of being attacked by weaponry fire
  • to be criticized or held responsible
  • under attack
  • targeted
  • beleaguered
  • embattled
  • besieged

Example Sentences

  1. The politician came under fire after it was discovered that he had spend campaign money on lavish parties.
  2. The CEO is under fire because of the high salaries paid to his friends.
  3. Our landlord came under fire at the tenants’ meeting because he does not fix any of the problems with our apartments.
  4. The teacher came under fire when all of her students failed to complete the standardized test in time.


The literal use of the phrase has been in use since the early 1700s. Originally it meant to be in the range of enemy fire. As guns were not as advanced as they are today, you could see the spark when a gun was fired. It could explain the literal meaning of the phrase.

The idiomatic expression has been used since the 1800s. The figurative is less difficult to discern. It can be said that questions or accusations are fired at them in much the same way as bullets out of a gun. The phrase has a negative connotation as compliments are rarely fired at someone. We can only guess where it originated as no definitive information is available. Today it is used more commonly in its figurative form.

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