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

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 The decision evoked anger and a sense of betrayal among conservatives and led to a primary challenge from the right’s firebrand Pat Buchanan. Gerald F. Seib, WSJ, "George H.W. Bush, America’s 41st President and Father of 43rd, Dies," 1 Dec. 2018 Kobach, a conservative firebrand and regular guest on cable news, was viewed favorably by 41 percent of respondents. Bryan Lowry, kansascity, "Nearly a third of GOP voters in Kansas are undecided in tight race for governor | The Kansas City Star," 17 May 2018 Socialist firebrand Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, and instituted a range of policies that critics say set in motion the economic death spiral from which the country has not recovered. Hollie Mckay, Fox News, "Venezuelan opposition leader laments "genocide" in his country, reveals his escape from detainment," 18 Sep. 2018 Or the firebrand Stosh Cotler, who is steering Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice in just the direction Weisman advocates. Jane Eisner,, "In the face of hate, a call to action for American Jews," 27 Mar. 2018 But polls suggest outright victory could turn out to be harder than the firebrand president initially wagered. NBC News, "Erdogan clings to power as polls tighten ahead of Turkey's snap election," 23 June 2018 But outright victory, with Erdogan winning the presidential vote and his Justice and Development party, or AKP, winning the parliamentary ballot, could turn out to be harder than the firebrand president initially wagered. Elena Becatoros And Zeynep Bilginsoy, Fox News, "Turkey heads to landmark presidential, parliamentary vote," 22 June 2018 For most of recent history, House leadership has walked all over its moderate members, while coddling its far-right firebrands. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Paul Ryan Scrambles to Block Vote on DREAM Act," 17 May 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

25 Mar 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).


marked by a state of overwhelming emotion

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