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

Far-right firebrand Jair Bolsonaro won a decisive victory on Sunday in Brazil’s presidential runoff election. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Jair Bolsonaro, right-wing firebrand, wins Brazil’s presidential election," 29 Oct. 2018 The host of MasterChef Italia for its first six seasons, Cracco has the firebrand personality (and good looks) of a TV sensation, the refined taste of a chef with a Michelin star, and the roving curiosity of a world traveler. Town & Country, "The Secret Worlds of Milan’s Design Illuminati," 21 Sep. 2018 No one can take what’s yours because no one can show up to fill your moon booties, firebrand. Bess Matassa, Teen Vogue, "Weekly Horoscopes Aug 13-19," 11 Aug. 2018 His opponents conceded before any actual results were released, based on exit polls showing the firebrand populist’s commanding lead. Patrick J. Mcdonnell,, "Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wins Mexico's presidential election in a massive landslide," 2 July 2018 The firebrand Shia cleric (pictured) directed his supporters to attack the American troops who invaded Iraq in 2003. The Economist, "A cleric who once tormented America seems to have won Iraq’s election," 19 May 2018 Awards shows have also gotten increasingly political, with celebrity presenters and winners playing the role of firebrands at town-hall meetings. John Koblin, New York Times, "Ratings for Grammy Awards Drop 24 Percent," 29 Jan. 2018 While passing through New York, The Regrettes let The Verge rummage through their bags (and one jacket) to see what these pop-punk firebrands carry with from day to day. Dani Deahl, The Verge, "What’s In Your Bag, The Regrettes?," 5 Nov. 2018 So did Matia Chowdhury, a firebrand student leader in the 1960s and now a cabinet minister, who said the protesters were the sons and daughters of those who collaborated with the Pakistani army in 1971. The Economist, "Protests in Bangladesh put an end to a corrupt quota system," 21 Apr. 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

16 Dec 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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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).


a knickknack or trinket

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