Flame vs. Fire – What’s the Difference? (Helpful Examples)

For many, the words flame and fire are synonymous. However, this isn’t exactly the case. While both fire and flame can look very similar (with flames being a product of fire), the meaning of the words is completely different. Let’s explain.

Flame vs. Fire – What’s The Difference?

A fire occurs when something is burning. So, if you lit a piece of wood alight, you could say that it is on fire. A flame is a by-product of something being on fire. It is a stream of hot burning gas that emits from whatever object is alight.

flame vs fire

When something is burning, you would say that it is ‘on fire’. While something burning will often give off flames and light, this is not always the case.

A flame is something caused by a fire. When something is alight, the gases inside will start to burn up. As they burn up, they will be ‘shot’ into the air. When you see a flame, it is essentially a burning stream of gas.

The words flame and fire should not be used synonymously. However, it is perfectly fine to say something is ‘on fire’ when you see a flame. However, something being alight does not necessarily mean that there will be flames.

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When something is heated up to the point where the material is being used as fuel, it is said to be ‘on fire’. If gases inside of the material start to combust, flames are produced. A flame is the stream of burning gas emitting from something ‘on fire’.

According to The Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of flame is:

a stream of hot, burning gas from something on fire.

We do want to want to point out that there are other definitions for the word ‘flame’. For example, people often use the word to discuss their lover (my flame). However, you should be fine using the term in reference to fires only. Remember, the flame is the burning stream of gas, not the fire itself.

Here are some examples of how to use flame in a sentence:

  1. He could see the flames from the fire from a long distance away.
  2. The flame was licking the house next door, the fire brigade had to act quickly.
  3. You cannot have a flame without fire.
  4. If they didn’t get the fire under control quickly, the flame would get bigger.
  5. A flame came out the end of the lighter.


The word ‘fire’ is used to define something that is currently burning. It may be giving off smoke, heat, and flames, however, this is not always the case. If something is hot and ‘combusting’ i.e. the heat is using the material as a fuel, it is a fire.

According to The Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of fire is:

the state of burning that produces flames that send out what and light, and might produce smoke.

Whenever something is burning, you would use the word ‘fire’. Obviously, there are some ways to use the word ‘fire’ as slang, but this is not something that you are going to need to worry about too much.

Here are some examples of how to use fire in a sentence:

  1. The forest was on fire.
  2. He threw a match onto the wood, which caused a fire.
  3. Firefighters deal with fire on a daily basis.
  4. The Great Fire of London was a turning point in the 17th Century.
  5. You need water to put out most fires.

Which Is Used The Most?

According to Google Ngram Viewer, the word ‘fire’ gets considerably more use than the word ‘flame’.

flame vs fire usage

This makes a lot of sense. After all, people are much more likely to talk about fire than they are flames. In fact, if flames are discussed, it will often be alongside the word fire.

Can There Be Fire Without Flame?

Fire can burn without producing flames. The flames indicate that gas is combusting on the inside of whatever is burning. However, if no gases are combusting, the flame will still exist, and the object can be hot. In most cases, flames will eventually be produced.

Perhaps the best example of this is a cigarette. There is no denying that a cigarette is on fire. It is set alight, after all. However, there are no flames coming out of the end when the cigarette burns.

Of course, in most cases, where there is fire, there is going to be a flame. The alternative happens very rarely.

Which Is Hotter – Fire or Flame?

Fire is always going to be hotter than flame. It is the fire that causes the flames to be produced, and thus the flames are often a lot cooler than whatever is actually on fire. The difference in temperature will be down to the material that is burning.

The reason why fire is hotter than a flame is that the flame is the result of combustion inside the material that is burning. When the material combusts, gases inside burn up. It is those gases that create flames. Of course, as the flames go upward, they cool down significantly.