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 Cline, a firebrand far-right Republican, took her seat in January on the Utah State Board of Education, a 15-member body overseeing Utah’s public K-12 schools. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Controversial Utah school board member draws fire for posts accusing teacher of promoting communism," 18 Feb. 2021 The firebrand New York congresswoman organized time on the House floor for members to share their thoughts and experiences about the Jan. 6 attack following her own long recollection of her experience in an Instagram livestream earlier this week. Emily Brooks, Washington Examiner, "Tlaib weeps on House floor during AOC-organized therapy session on Capitol breach," 5 Feb. 2021 No one more so than Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, who emerged as an anti-migration firebrand at the back of the 2015 crisis. New York Times, "E.U. Border Agency Pulls Out of Hungary Over Rights Abuses," 27 Jan. 2021 Once predominantly White, Prince William was long known for the former head of its Board of Supervisors, Republican firebrand Corey A. Stewart. Washington Post, "After fueling a blue tide, Democrats in changing Virginia suburb aim high for more influence," 4 Jan. 2021 The proposal was welcomed by several lawmakers, including federal minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt as well as firebrand rightwing One Nation party leader Pauline Hanson. NBC News, "Australia changes National Anthem wording to reflect Indigenous history," 1 Jan. 2021 Sidney Powell, a firebrand conservative attorney who was removed from Trump’s legal team, is among the lawyers. Scott Bauer,, "Wisconsin election results: Trump files lawsuit seeking to disqualify hundreds of thousands of ballots," 1 Dec. 2020 McCarthy left it to Democrats to penalize the freshman firebrand, and Greene was stripped of her committees in a vote by the full House, in which 11 Republicans broke ranks and joined Democrats to remove her from two committee assignments. Kendall Karson, ABC News, "GOP on defense as Democrats harness party's ties to extremism," 8 Feb. 2021 As for Bannon's posts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said they had been taken down but that the rightwing firebrand had not violated the company's rules frequently enough to warrant banning him from the platform. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, "Facebook’s A.I. is getting better at finding malicious content—but it won’t solve the company’s problems," 19 Nov. 2020

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

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Last Updated

5 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Firebrand.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for firebrand



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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