English Idiom – Too many irons in the fire or Several irons in the fire.

Meaning – To have too much to do at the same time. To be engaged in too many activities at the same time. This idiom describes a situation where someone is attempting to do too many things at once, often resulting in poor performance or incomplete tasks. It suggests that someone is taking on more than they can handle, and as a result, they may become overwhelmed and unable to complete any of the tasks effectively.

The phrase irons in the fire is a shortened version of the full phrase too many irons in the fire. However, it can also be used on its own to refer to the number of projects or tasks someone is currently working on, without necessarily indicating that they are overwhelmed or overburdened.

This expressions originates from blacksmiths. A blacksmith is a person who works with iron and steel. A blacksmith might make tools with iron or steel, or make shoes for horses. Iron or steel is heated in a forge (very hot fire) then hammered into shape on an anvil (hard metal workbench). If a blacksmith has too many irons in the fire he will be extremely busy!

a blacksmith at work
A blacksmith at work.

Related Expressions:


When could you use this idiom?

  • If you believe someone is taking on too much work.
  • When you discuss someone who is extremely busy.
  • A friend is tired because he has been working on too many projects at the time.
  • Somebody is struggling to keep on top of their workload.


  • “He’s been working on the plans for expansion, searching for new staff, and he’s trying to complete his studies. We can’t possibly give him any more work, he’s already got too many irons in the fire.”

In The News:

Alex Neil has ‘irons in the fire‘ for ever-changing Stoke City transfer window

What is an idiom?

An idiom is a word or phrase that is not taken literally.  An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its individual words, but has a separate meaning of its own.

What is FunkyEnglish?

FunkyEnglish is a website that helps you improve your English. We offer quick lessons that teach idiomsslangphrasal verbs and more. Visit our homepage to see our latest articles, or use the menu to find specific content!