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 unity between the Democratic primary’s two liberal firebrands, Sens. Joshua Jamerson And Eliza Collins, WSJ, "Elizabeth Warren Is ‘With Bernie’—Except When It Comes to Capitalism," 7 Jan. 2020 Nor has Brazil's leader controversial leader Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing firebrand who has wooed Trump with excessive flattery and the promise of U.S. military bases. Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY, "View from there: World averts gaze from Trump impeachment," 20 Dec. 2019 The protest caravan rolled into Islamabad on Thursday led by firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who heads the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party., "News of the Day From Across the World, Nov. 2," 2 Nov. 2019 During the McCarthy period, Julia Child was pressured by the sister of conservative firebrand William F. Buckley Jr. (a McCarthy supporter) to boycott Smith College (Childs’s alma mater) until five suspected communists were fired from the faculty. Jonathan Turley, Twin Cities, "Jonathan Turley: Yes, Trump has Joe McCarthy-like tendencies. So do some Democrats," 25 Oct. 2019 Ian Paisley, 88, the divisive Protestant firebrand preacher who had devoted his life to thwarting compromise with Catholics in Northern Ireland only to later became a pivotal peacemaker , died in Belfast., "In 1942, during World War II, a German U-boat off West Africa torpedoed the RMS Laconia, which was carrying Italian prisoners of war, British soldiers and civilians; it’s estimated more than 1,600 people died while some 1,100 survived after the ship sank.," 12 Sep. 2019 There's also Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, a high-ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, and a firebrand who moved to the Intelligence Committee this month to help lead the defense of Trump during the public hearings. Fortune, "Which Republicans Will Likely Support Trump in the Impeachment Hearings and Why," 13 Nov. 2019 Teaming up earlier this year with progressive firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the sweeping climate change proposal known as the Green New Deal once again proved to his supporters his leadership and devotion., "Climate activists are furious over Kennedy’s challenge to Markey - The Boston Globe," 1 Oct. 2019 There have been firebrands since the '20s and '30s and in the suffragette movement. Thom Duffy, Billboard, "Why Bonnie Raitt Returned to Farm Aid: 'It's Activists I'm Singing For -- That's My Job'," 23 Sep. 2019

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

14 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Firebrand.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 18 January 2020.

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More Definitions for firebrand


How to pronounce firebrand (audio)

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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