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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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 18th-century preacher Henry Sacheverell was a firebrand who was also, more simply, a brand. The Atlantic, 16 May 2022 John Brown Gun Club was founded in the spirit of the 18th-century firebrand and Torrington native, a white man who went to his death defending the abolitionist cause. Susan Dunne, Hartford Courant, 2 May 2022 The evidence of a party that has embraced self-radicalization is dismaying former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who, many years ago, was considered something of a conservative firebrand himself as a young GOP congressman. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 17 Nov. 2021 In the nine months since, however, Tuberville has surprised people by declining to play the role of MAGA firebrand. Washington Post, 19 Oct. 2021 Back in Georgia, firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene won her Republican primary, shrugging off challengers who complained Greene was giving the party a bad name by engaging in Holocaust denial and other headline-grabbing, bombastic behavior. Nicholas Riccardi, Chicago Tribune, 25 May 2022 He is disliked by many of the 7.7 million voters who backed the left-wing firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first-round, leading Macron to woo left-leaning voters and ethnic minorities in the campaign’s final week. Patrick Smith, NBC News, 22 Apr. 2022 The embattled firebrand of a U.S. Representative did well on his home turf in north Alabama, winning in Madison and Limestone counties - each in the Huntsville metro area - as well as in neighboring Morgan County. Ramsey Archibald |, al, 25 May 2022 Prosperity and fertility will come, and the former Irish firebrand has ascended to country squire — for those who consider that a rise. Thelma Adams,, 17 May 2022 See More

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.

First Known Use of firebrand

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

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Last Updated

20 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Firebrand.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on firebrand

Nglish: Translation of firebrand for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of firebrand for Arabic Speakers


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