I have a question about the English word “fire”.

Does fire have many meanings like flames or strong emotion, doesn’t it?

But, it does not have the meaning same as “fireproof “ or “fire-resistant”, right?

So why does the word “fire door” mean “fire-resistant door”? When I read the word “fire door” for the first time, I thought that means “burning door”.

The same question can be said to the word “fire department “. Is that burning department? No, it’s the department for firefighters.

Firefighters is the word which mean the people who fight the fire!! I can understand that well.

But, fire door… I have no idea why it means fireproof door.

  • 1
    I remember when firemen started, tended and put out fires.
    – KillingTime
    Sep 9, 2021 at 14:00
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    Fire does not mean burning in English; it means it has something to do with fire. For example, firewood is wood that you are planning to burn, not wood that is being burned. Similarly for water; if a piece of paper has a watermark, it's not necessarily wet, and a waterwheel is one that's turned by water, not one made of water (that's a whirlpool or a maelstrom). Possibly you are being confused by the meaning of fire in your first language. Sep 9, 2021 at 14:01
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    Attributive nouns have many types of semantic relationships to their head nouns. I've mislaid an article covering this, but over a dozen were mentioned. 'XY' here is 'Y is a passive guard against X" (fire door; fireguard) or 'Y is an establishment set up to counter X' (fire brigade/department), and we have 'Y is a base for a department set up to fight against X' (fire station) and 'Y is the leader of the personnel at a fire station' (fire chief) or '... a man trained to fight X' (fireman). Also, 'Y is a rehearsal of an evacuation procedure in case X occurs' (fire drill) comes to ... Sep 9, 2021 at 15:20
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    A "fire door" could be a door that is to be used only in case of fire.
    – GEdgar
    Sep 9, 2021 at 15:34
  • 2
    A fire door offers protection from fire, just as a raincoat offers protection from rain.
    – psmears
    Sep 9, 2021 at 15:39

1 Answer 1


It's a very specific term.

Fire doors are fire-retardant, often heat insulating doors designed to prevent free airflow through the building thus they slow down fire spread. They should to be opened easily by a person with reduced ability to see or manipulate and are normally closed by design by means of springs or weights.

Typical fire door

By its nature, the term is describing a door, obviously, somehow related to a case of fire. Fire has got plural meaning, including an event where the building is on fire.

By origin, the term is an analog of firewall (otherwise known as brandmauer), but fire door can be used as a door in routine life unlike a firewall. Firewall functions as an erected obstacle in case of fire, literally a wall, while technically it's often a form of heavy door.

PS. Today we have another meaning of firewall and one time some software was using image of opened fire door as "exit" icon.

  • Fire door may be a term with a very specific meaning, but there is nothing special about the grammatical relationship between fire and door in the phrase fire door, which seems to be what the OP is unclear about - that's why the question belongs to the ELL site.
    – jsw29
    Sep 9, 2021 at 16:51
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    "Firewall" is a good example of a word which has the potential to have two, almost opposite, meanings. After all we talk of a bush fire as being "a wall of flame" so a "fire wall" could be a fire such as a bushfire. Similarly a "fireman" could be, up to a few decades ago, both a man who fought fires and one who tended the fire under the boiler of a steam-driven railway locomotive. Near parallels are "aircraft" which is not a craft made from air, "water channel" which is not a channel made from water and "petrol engine" which is a metal engine which uses petrol to run.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 10, 2021 at 0:35
  • @BoldBen or fishman, which is a man who 1) cleans and prepares fish in food service or 2) who sells fish (a synonym to fishmonger). But it also sounds like some description of cross between human and fish , according to golden era comics tradition. Sep 10, 2021 at 6:50
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    That's very true. That's particularly true of Batman who could be a superhero, a zoologist specialising in flying mammals or the personal attendant assigned to an army officer. Thinking too much about this sort of word in English is a route to total confusion!
    – BoldBen
    Sep 10, 2021 at 18:30

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