When anyone starts smoking, he/she "fire" the cigarette.

I am sure the "fire" word is not correct. so what should I say?

I tried using the dictionary to translate from my language to English, but all I got is:

  1. "burn" the cigarette?

  2. "grill" the cigarette?

which I am sure is not correct in English.


2 Answers 2


He or she lights a cigarette (cigar/pipe), unless we are talking about some cigarette that we want to reference as uniquely indentifiable, such as one that fell on the ground; in that case, use the.

When a person lacks matches or a cigarette lighter, he can ask someone "Do you have a light?"

  • "Messer, Gabel, Scher' und Licht – sind für kleine Kinder nicht." -> An old german saying that also refers to fire as "light" :)
    – phresnel
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 11:30

You light a cigarette or just light up.

Note that this tracks with what you do to start a fire: you light a fire, or light the wood on fire.

A cigarette that is burning is a lit cigarette.

About lighting up—if you were to read, "George lit up and took a drag," you should understand this to mean he had lighted (or lit) a cigarette and then drew in air through it, taking smoke into his lungs. Despite not saying so, this unambiguously refers to a cigarette, unless context indicates otherwise.

  • 1
    To add a bit, the only other word I can think of for this action is "ignite" and it is restricted in usage. Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 3:02
  • @JasonPatterson: For cigarettes, to? I only know ignite for "firing up" a car.
    – phresnel
    Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 11:31
  • @phresnel No, I agree, "light a cigarette" is always used. ErikE's answer indicated that we use "light" as the verb to start fires in general. I was just adding that ignite is also used in some settings. Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 16:41
  • You can set something on fire. (You wouldn't say that you "set a cigarette", of course.)
    – Adam Haun
    Commented Jan 8, 2015 at 1:24
  • You also wouldn't generally say ignite a cigarette, as ignition is a special word that generally refers to fuses or fuel, and while cigarettes are definitely fuel in that they will burn, they aren't considered fuel for the benefit of something besides themselves.
    – ErikE
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 1:27

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