fire·​brand | \ ˈfī(-ə)r-ˌbrand How to pronounce firebrand (audio) \

Definition of firebrand

1 : a piece of burning wood
2 : one that creates unrest or strife (as in aggressively promoting a cause) : agitator

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Did You Know?

The original firebrands were incendiary indeed; they were pieces of wood set burning at the fire, perhaps for use as a light or a weapon. English speakers started brandishing those literal firebrands as long ago as the 13th century. (Robinson Crusoe held one high as he rushed into a cave on his deserted island and saw by the light of the firebrand . . . lying on the ground a monstrous, frightful old he-goat.) But the burning embers of the wooden firebrand quickly sparked figurative uses for the term, too. By the early 14th century, firebrand was also being used for one doomed to burn in hell, and by 1382, English writers were using it for anyone who kindled mischief or inflamed passions.

Examples of firebrand in a Sentence

a firebrand who urged crowds to riot during the blackouts

Recent Examples on the Web

The group that recruited freshman firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to run for Congress in New York has found a candidate to take on Laredo Democrat Henry Cuellar. Dylan Mcguinness,, "Laredo Congressman draws fiery challenger," 13 June 2019 Interestingly, Cruz, who gained a national presence for his conservative firebrand theatrics, only to lose to Trump, has also had to play more inside the state. Tara Golshan, Vox, "Ted Cruz tried to define Beto O’Rourke as a radical in their first debate. O’Rourke seemed unfazed.," 22 Sep. 2018 One bellwether is Zhirinovsky, a presidential candidate and longtime firebrand who revels in racially charged and xenophobic rhetoric. Anton Troianovski, Washington Post, "After a year of Trump, Russians are still waiting for the thaw," 19 Jan. 2018 Polls show that support for the demonstrations is strongest among people who identify with political parties led by Marine Le Pen of the far right and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a left-wing firebrand. Stacy Meichtry, WSJ, "Protests Threaten Macron’s Campaign to Remake France," 9 Dec. 2018 In the rise of Mexico’s next president, a populist who channeled a nation’s anger at mainstream politicians, some here saw a glimmer of another North American firebrand. Kevin Sieff, Washington Post, "Mexico’s new president is a populist who railed against the ruling class. But he’s no Trump.," 1 July 2018 Blackburn is a hyperpartisan conservative firebrand seeking to fill a seat held by a pragmatic business-centric Republican who’s somewhat of a fish out of water in the Trump era. Tara Golshan, Vox, "The 2 must-watch races in Tennessee’s primaries, briefly explained," 2 Aug. 2018 Coventry hadn’t experienced a winning season since the 1970s, but Tipton and his young firebrand assistants coached Harrison and his teammates to consecutive 8-2 seasons. Jonathan Jones,, "James Harrison’s Complicated, Controversial High School Days," 30 Jan. 2018 Facebook has wiped an account belonging to Myanmar’s notorious firebrand monk Wirathu. Laignee Barron, Time, "Nationalist Monk Known as the 'Burmese bin Laden' Has Been Stopped From Spreading Hate on Facebook," 28 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'firebrand.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of firebrand

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

17 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for firebrand

The first known use of firebrand was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of firebrand

: a person who tries to get people to become angry and to do things for a political or social cause

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Comments on firebrand

What made you want to look up firebrand? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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