The Grammarphobia Blog

Why isn’t there a “fire” in “fiery”?

Q: A friend in my writing group asked this question and i wonder if you
have an answer: If “fire” is spelled f-i-r-e, why is “fiery” spelled the way it is?

A: The Old English word “fyr” (fire) was transcribed into Middle English as “fier.” (The Old English letter y, representing a long “i” sound, was written as “ie” in the Middle English version of the word.)

The Modern English spelling “fire” didn’t become firmly established until about 1600, but a trace of the old spelling survived in the adjective “fiery.”