What's the difference between "burn up" and "burn down"? Or is there a difference at all?

  • See this version youtube.com/watch?v=xNnAvTTaJjM
    – user9510
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 9:17
  • 1
    Or 'beat up' vs. 'beat down', or 'write down' vs. 'write up', or 'tear up' vs. 'tear down', or any number of others.... Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 5:06

6 Answers 6


My take is that "burn up" comes from some sense that the thing is used up (fuel is used and is gone). "Burn down" means the thing has "burned down to the ground" in that all structure and support is gone.

One might say that "all my stuff was burned up in the fire when my house burned down." You'd be less likely to hear "my house burned up," but it is not totally unheard of usage.

There's also a common third option—"burn through"—which evokes the idea of a wave of fire moving across or through something. "I burned through all my money at that casino in about two hours."

  • 3
    Good answer, thank "Bob". Fuel burns up, buildings burn down, funding burns through.
    – bye
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 18:31
  • And burnout too...
    – mplungjan
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 20:32
  • My thoughts exactly. But, wouldn't it be burnt through?
    – MVCylon
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 21:07
  • I suppose it depends on how you learnt it
    – horatio
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 21:19
  • Some days your house burns up; some days your house burns down.
    – chaos
    Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 15:40

Burn Up:

1 if something burns up or is burnt up, it is completely destroyed by fire or heat : The satellite will burn up as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere. burn something up Most of the woodland has now been burnt up.

2 burn something up informal to use a lot of something in a careless way : Most household appliances burn up loads of electricity. He just burns up money!

3 be burning up spoken if someone is burning up, they are very hot, usually because they are ill : Feel his forehead – he’s burning up.

4 burn somebody up American English informal to make someone very angry : The way he treats her really burns me up.

5 burn something up to use energy that is stored in your body, by being physically active: As we get older, our body becomes less efficient at burning up calories.

Burn Down:

1 if a building burns down or is burned down, it is destroyed by fire : She was worried that the house might burn down while they were away.

burn something down The old town hall was burnt down in the 1970s.

2 if a fire burns down, the flames become weaker and it produces less heat


Burn up is usually meant to indicate the usage of something:

We're burning up all our fuel.

Burn up can also mean angry:

That comment is really burning me up.

Or traverse something quickly:

Those racers are burning up the track!

Burn down is normally structural, but it can also mean to go through something (as a fire 'goes through' a house):

My house burned down.

Let's burn down these tasks until they're done.

There is a type of chart called a 'burndown chart' which demonstrates the second option.

  • Fever: Poor kid, he's burning up
    – mplungjan
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 20:33

To burn up means to light fire on something, like burn up your house, burn up your bed; you light fire on that, but it hasn't ended, the fire stays for some time. When you burn down, it means that the fire is already gone, and what you burned up is destroyed, like a house, the structure and support are gone.


When we say "burn up or burned up" the fire will continue to light up that certain things that might be destroy.It was started from lesser amount of fire or heat to the greatest amount until that certain things may destroy.When we say "burn down or burned up" the mentioned thing is already gone.It was started from the greatest amount of fire or heat until it will goes down.


Burned up means fire started low and went upwards, otherwise a fast moving fire whereas burned down the fire started high and burned downward otherwise a slow burning fire

  • 3
    Burned down doesn't necessarily mean that the fire started high and burned downwards. Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 7:19

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