Tim Bowen helps iron out any problems with his latest instalment of word grammar.

The word iron can function as a noun, a verb, as part of a phrasal verb, and as an adjective. 

Apart from its main meaning as a metal, the noun iron can also refer to the implement used for ironing clothes and to a type of golf club with a metal section that strikes the ball. If you pump iron, you lift heavy weights as a form of exercise. 

The plural form can be used to refer to the chains fitted around the legs of prisoners, as in ‘Prisoners were kept in irons even when they were in the exercise yard’. The plural form is also used in the expression to have several irons in the fire, meaning to be busy with several different activities or to have several different plans. 

Apart from the verbal meaning mentioned earlier, iron is also used in the phrasal verb to iron out, meaning to deal successfully with a disagreement or problem, especially by removing the last remaining difficulties, as in ‘The two sides are holding a summit meeting next week to iron out the final details of the agreement’. 

The adjective iron can refer to the metal to describe something made of iron, but it can also be used to mean very strong, strict or severe, as in ‘The whole region was in the iron grip of winter’ or ‘He ruled the country with an iron fist for more than forty years’. It can also mean ‘very determined’, as in ‘She possesses an iron will and a strong sense of purpose’.