fire·brand | \ˈfī(-ə)r-ˌbrand \

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 same script played out again at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when Mexico brought in the firebrand Miguel Herrera but exited in the second round for the sixth straight World Cup. Raúl Vilchis, New York Times, "Mexico Wages a Psychological Battle Against Its World Cup Demons," 6 June 2018 The loudest of those criticisms reached the President through TV screens, where the conservative firebrand Ann Coulter excoriated the President for failing to get border wall funding. Jeremy Diamond, CNN, "Trump's base-pleasing border tweets foreshadow 2018 role," 4 Apr. 2018 The potential for violence worried authorities, especially given the shooting in January 2017 in Red Square, after right-wing firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos spoke at the UW at the invitation of the College Republicans. Christine Willmsen, The Seattle Times, "5 arrested as Trump supporters, counterprotesters rally at UW in Seattle," 10 Feb. 2018 The landslide victory of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico's presidential election is likely to provide some relief to another leftist firebrand: Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro. Scott Smith, Fox News, "Mexico's new president could help ease pressure on Venezuela," 9 July 2018 Furious at spiraling corruption and violence, Mexican voters unleashed a political earthquake Sunday by electing a leftist firebrand as president and giving him a broad mandate to overthrow the political establishment and govern for the poor. The Christian Science Monitor, "Mexico elects leftist López Obrador as president," 2 July 2018 That’s a damper for Soeder, 51, a CSU firebrand who is focusing the election campaign on refugees and migration. Iain Rogers,, "In Bavaria, Anti-Merkel Campaign on Migration Reaches Limits," 28 June 2018 Tens of thousands of Venezuelans - especially from the upper classes - began leaving the country following the rise of left-wing firebrand Hugo Chávez, who became president in 1999. Anthony Faiola And Rachelle Krygier,, "A historic exodus is leaving Venezuela without teachers, doctors and electricians," 4 June 2018 Republicans: Mary Taylor has reinvented herself as a conservative firebrand this election. Seth A. Richardson,, "Ohio governor's race 2018: Listen to our Ohio Matters podcast interviews with the candidates," 3 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

7 Oct 2018

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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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