firebrand

noun

fire·​brand ˈfī(-ə)r-ˌbrand How to pronounce firebrand (audio)
1
: a piece of burning wood
2
: one that creates unrest or strife (as in aggressively promoting a cause) : agitator

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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 After German reunification, the Eisler group, which took its name from the firebrand of German leftist music, remained outsiders, their ideals now clashing with democratic capitalism. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 13 Nov. 2023 Imperiale, a political firebrand who also served as a Newark city councilman, was in the national spotlight in the 1960s as a spokesman for cracking down on crime. Matthew Brown, Fortune, 30 Jan. 2024 Jonathan had cast a vote for Vivek Ramaswamy, the 38-year-old firebrand businessman. Faith E. Pinho, Los Angeles Times, 16 Jan. 2024 Strickland, a firebrand conservative, was also vocal about his opposition to Pope Francis and efforts to make the church more welcoming to LGBTQ worshippers and to give additional responsibility to lay people. William Skipworth, Forbes, 28 Nov. 2023 Domingo knows that, in addition to the responsibility of bringing to life a genuine American hero, he’s also been given a chance to play the scales with a firebrand who contained multitudes. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 15 Nov. 2023 Second, the album balances a careful mix of power and vulnerability, one that adds complexity and nuance to notions of Latinas in music that often involve stereotypes as lusty sirens or spicy firebrands. Julyssa Lopez, Rolling Stone, 11 Jan. 2024 Chopin, whose real name was Erwin Bootz, marries Ruth, a Jew (and a firebrand Bolshevik to boot). Jesse Green, New York Times, 13 Nov. 2023 Crowder, a right-wing firebrand who was once demonetized by YouTube for his homophobic targeting of a journalist, released the images during a Monday afternoon live stream on Rumble and later posted them on the social media site X, formerly Twitter. Ben Brasch, Washington Post, 9 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'firebrand.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

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Cite this Entry

“Firebrand.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/firebrand. Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

firebrand

noun
fire·​brand -ˌbrand How to pronounce firebrand (audio)
1
: a piece of burning wood
2

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