Burn is the most comprehensive of these terms, for it is applicable regardless of the extent of injury or of whether fire or heat is the destructive agency.
- He was badly burned in the blaze.
- The vegetables were burned to a crisp (= badly burned).
- My skin burns easily (= in the sun) .
- I got badly burned by the sun yesterday.
- The brandy burned (= felt too hot on) my throat.
- Heart-burning vs Heartburn
- Burn the water vs Set the Thames on fire
- Burn the earth vs Scorch the earth
- Burn the candle at both ends vs Butter one’s bread on both sides
- Burn someone down vs Burn someone up
- Burn down vs Burn up
- Burn away vs Burn out
- Burn a hole in someone’s pocket vs Make a hole in someone’s pocket
- Build bridges with someone vs Burn bridges with someone
- Build a fire under someone vs Burn someone at the stake )
Scorch implies superficial burning that changes the color (especially to brown or black) or texture of something. (see also Burn the earth vs Scorch the earth )
- I scorched my dress when I was ironing it.
- Don't stand so near the fire─your coat is scorching!
Char usually implies total or partial reduction to carbon or charcoal by fire.
- Grill the peppers until the skin starts to char.
- The bodies had been charred beyond recognition.
Sear applies basically to the burning or scorching of animal tissues by fire or intense heat (as in cauterizing a wound, branding an animal, or quickly browning the outside of meats so that they will retain their juices in later and slower cooking).
- The heat from the explosion seared their hands and faces.
- Sear the meat first (= cook the outside of it quickly at a high temperature) to retain its juices.
Singe implies a very superficial burning. Sometimes such burning is intentional, especially when the short hairs or bristles covering a carcass being prepared for market or for cooking are quickly destroyed by a flame. (see also Like a scalded cat vs Like a singed cat )
- He singed his hair as he tried to light his cigarette.
- My sweater started to singe when I leaned over a burning candle.