in·​cen·​di·​ary | \in-ˈsen-dē-ˌer-ē; -ˈsen-də-rē, -dyə- \
plural incendiaries

Definition of incendiary 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a person who commits arson : arsonist

b : a substance or weapon (such as a bomb) used to start fires

2 : a person who excites factions, quarrels, or sedition : agitator


in·​cen·​di·​ary | \in-ˈsen-dē-ˌer-ē; -ˈsen-də-rē, -dyə-\

Definition of incendiary (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of, relating to, or involving arson : arsonous

2 : tending to excite or inflame : inflammatory incendiary speeches

3a : igniting combustible materials spontaneously

b : of, relating to, or being a weapon (such as a bomb) designed to start fires

4 : extremely hot incendiary chili peppers

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Examples of incendiary in a Sentence


He was convinced that the arsonist was not at all what the town imagined: not brazen, but callow; not an expert incendiary noiselessly plying deer paths, but someone who was driving right up to his targets and fumbling with matches … — Barry Werth, New England Monthly, February 1989 White phosphorus, an incendiary, is normally packed in thin-walled casings; the casing is effective for dispersing chemical agents as well. — Stephen Budiansky, Nature, 5–11 Apr. 1984 The British had also made jellied gasoline with rubber, and it was generally recognized to be an excellent incendiary because of its easy ignition, high heat of combustion, and controlled burning rate. — B. & F. M. Brodie, From Crossbow to H-Bomb, 1973 firefighters caught the incendiary, who was watching the effects of his handiwork blamed the protests on outside incendiaries who were intent on overthrowing the government


While visual effects experts work with images, mechanical effects experts work with machinery, tools, incendiary devices, and other equipment to manipulate physical events during live-action filming. — Patricia D. Netzley, Encyclopedia of Movie Special Effects, 2000 In the mid-Eighties, heavy-metal music was the incendiary genre being demonized … — Alan Light, Rolling Stone, 18 Feb. 1993 The only caveat … is to know one's own sensitivity to chili pepper heat. If a small or moderate dose of capsicum (the incendiary chemical component in chilies) makes you dash for a glass of ice water, this menu is not going to be fun for you. — Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator, 15 Mar. 1991 The fire was started by an incendiary bomb. recklessly made incendiary remarks during a period of heightened racial tensions
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Among the authors were right-wing incendiaries like Michael Savage, Mark Levin and Ann Coulter. John Sharp,, "How an Alabama classroom and a right-wing reading list put a fresh rip in America's partisan divide," 4 Feb. 2018 White phosphorus, along with other incendiaries, has been used by Syrian government forces battling insurgents in Aleppo and elsewhere. Anne Barnard, New York Times, "U.S.-Led Forces Said to Have Used White Phosphorus in Syria," 10 June 2017 The bombardier dropped four incendiaries, setting the factory ablaze. National Geographic, "Trained in Secret, These Fearless Pilots Retaliated for Pearl Harbor," 15 Apr. 2017 But incendiaries, barrel bombs and missiles can do just as much damage to civilians as gas — which Assad didn’t necessarily use or intend to use in the future, anyway. Leonid Bershidsky, The Denver Post, "Trump’s missiles hit U.S. critics, not Assad," 22 Apr. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Some believe the recent string of 36 attacks against Muslims in the U.S. to be the result of this kind of incendiary political rhetoric—which is why Hamid was compelled to defend herself and her religion in a quiet, peaceful way. Kate Storey, Marie Claire, "Meet the Muslim-American Woman Who Dared to Stand Up at a Trump Rally—and Was Escorted Out the Door," 10 Jan. 2016 Trump’s pattern of incendiary and self-contradictory statements makes Putin look polished by comparison. Anna Arutunyan, Time, "No Matter What Happens in Helsinki, Putin Has Already Won," 10 July 2018 Here's a sneak peek: Dan Helmer, running in a crowded Democratic primary in Virginia’s 10th District to challenge GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock, released an incendiary new political ad comparing Trump to Osama bin Laden. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Why Virginia’s Medicaid expansion is a big deal," 31 May 2018 The National Rifle Association, which these days seems less interested in guns than in promoting a half-terrifying, half-hilarious war against liberal elites, has a new, typically incendiary ad out, promoting its video arm, NRATV. Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, "The NRA’s Greatest Weapon Is the Truth. Or a Giant Hammer. One of the Two.," 12 Feb. 2018 In response to the arson attacks, the IDF targeted a vehicle used by an arson cell operating in southern Gaza, and a truck used by another Hamas cell to make incendiary and explosive balloons. Nikki Guttman, Jewish Journal, "IDF photos prove Hamas is behind Gaza kite terrorism," 26 June 2018 Rescuers and residents say napalm and incendiary bombs were being dropped on civilian targets in a campaign to drive civilians out of Eastern Ghouta. Washington Post, "World Digest: March 20, 2018," 20 Mar. 2018 Rami Abdul Rahman, who heads the Observatory, claimed Thursday that government forces used Thermite munitions, incendiary bombs whose use is banned by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Nabih Bulos,, "Thousands displaced, aid delivery halted as violence consumes Syrian enclave," 8 Mar. 2018 The president asserted that the parents illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border with their children 'could be murderers and thieves and so much else,' echoing his incendiary remarks about immigrants at his campaign launch in 2015. Heather Long, Washington Post, "The Finance 202: Economists say we're not in a full-blown trade war. Yet.," 19 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'incendiary.' 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 incendiary


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for incendiary


Middle English, from Latin incendiarius, from incendium conflagration, from incendere


see incendiary entry 1

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The first known use of incendiary was in the 15th century

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English Language Learners Definition of incendiary

: containing chemicals that explode into flame : producing a fire

: causing anger

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a private place of worship

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