Clarification on 炎 vocab definition

Can anyone clarify the meaning for 炎? In the meaning explanation, it specifically says, “Usually this refers to nice little fires, like campfires, not so much things like forest fires or house fires.”

However, the example sentence it gives uses it as a house fire…


There is a rumor a psychic had a vision that flames swallowed up the White House in under an hour.

The example sentences on Jisho used it either to mean inflammation (of the body) or larger fires like forest and house fires, so I’m guessing that’s more accurate. Wondering if anyone can clarify the nuance for me, though. Thanks in advance!


I don’t know… the sentence uses it like “swallowed by flames” but it isn’t referring to the whole house fire as 炎. A house fire would probably be 火事. A forest fire would be 山火事. Does that distinction make sense? If you just refer to the entire fire as a noun, you probably wouldn’t say 炎 for that.

Saying “that’s a house fire” is different from saying something was “swallowed by flames.”

I do agree that it’s worded confusingly in the explanation, which was probably not written by the same person as the example sentence.


That does help. Yes, most of the examples were of things “going up in flames”. So it may be big, but the term is actually referring to “flames” or fire as a general term rather than a specific fire or type of fire.


As was mentioned actually just moments ago in another topic, 炎’s reading of ほのお comes from the meaning 火の穂 (head of fire). So the tip, the end of a fire. That’s the etymological origin. ほ is a reading for 火 you probably haven’t seen yet, and 穂 is pronounced and written ほ now, but in classical Japanese it was written ほ and sounded like お. So, it was spelled ほのほ but would have been pronounced ほのお.


That is really interesting. Should help me remember the reading better, too. Thanks!

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