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

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 Her cool approach to incendiary topics is part of what makes her work so brilliant and so frustrating. Jennifer Szalai, New York Times, "When It Comes to Politics, Be Afraid. But Not Too Afraid.," 4 July 2018 Trump used racially incendiary language throughout the 2016 campaign, slamming a Hispanic judge, a Muslim Gold Star mother and even retweeting openly white nationalist Twitter handles. Ryan Teague Beckwith, Time, "West Virginia's Don Blankenship Says He's 'Trumpier Than Trump.' Here's How He Actually Compares," 7 May 2018 Standing alone, the tweets from Painter and Tanden are incendiary and worthy of Four Pinocchios. Salvador Rizzo,, "There is an unfounded conspiracy theory about the Supreme Court and Trump Tower Chicago," 14 July 2018 Standing alone, the tweets from Painter and Tanden are incendiary and worthy of Four Pinocchios. Salvador Rizzo, Washington Post, "The thinly-sourced theories about Trump’s loans and Justice Kennedy’s son," 12 July 2018 Then, as now, issues relating to the flag were incendiary. Floyd Abrams, WSJ, "The First Amendment’s Undisputed Champion," 29 June 2018 What both Hannity and Trump are doing is incendiary and dangerous to the congresswoman and our country. Monique Judge, The Root, "Sean Hannity Blamed Maxine Waters for the Capital Gazette Shooting," 28 June 2018 If the incident involving Rattín wasn’t incendiary enough, Alf Ramsey then made matters even worse by refusing to let his players swap shirts with their adversaries at the end of the game., "World Cup Countdown: 8 Days to Go - What if Antonio Rattín Hadn’t Been Sent Off?," 6 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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Comments on incendiary

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to make amends

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