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

Hamas, in turn, has staged weekly riots at the Gaza barrier and unleashed flying incendiaries that have wreaked massive ecological damage. WSJ, "Try Something New After 70 Years of Failure," 6 Nov. 2018 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

Her songs were powerful and incendiary enough (want a blistering, one-song history of the treatment of Native Americans at the hands of the government? Corey Seymour, Vogue, "Iconic Protest Singer Buffy Sainte Marie Has Been Blacklisted By Nixon, Sampled By Kanye, And Breastfed Her Baby On Sesame Street—For Starters," 9 Nov. 2018 Pence’s choice of a Messianic Jewish rabbi was, within that context, a highly incendiary one. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "Messianic Jews and Jews for Jesus, explained," 31 Oct. 2018 But the image of Smith and Carlos raising fists would become seared in history as an incendiary act of protest by athletes. Deneen L. Brown, The Seattle Times, "An iconic Olympics moment: Looking back at the Black Power salute that rocked the world in 1968," 16 Oct. 2018 For people who might not know, Rage Against the Machine has very incendiary lyrics about like tearing things up and radical ideas in it and revolutionary things. Eric Johnson, Recode, "‘Sorry to Bother You’ director Boots Riley suspects social media platforms are hiding politics they don’t like," 8 Oct. 2018 The national anthem controversy—which saw players kneel to protest racial injustice and police brutality in America—made daily headlines, thanks in part to the president’s nonstop incendiary tweets. Dan Barna, Glamour, "The NFL Will Have Male Cheerleaders Next Season," 7 Aug. 2018 Amid a wave of stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks that began nearly three years ago, Israel has stepped up its monitoring of social media and has questioned or jailed users such as Zibar who are deemed to have posted incendiary messages. Ruth Eglash, Washington Post, "Israel says that monitoring social media has cut ‘lone wolf’ attacks. Palestinians are crying foul.," 9 July 2018 In the absence of a clear motive, attention turned to a hodge-podge of incendiary posts by Pagourtzis on social media, which were quickly removed when his identity first emerged. Marie Simoneaux,, "Man shot in the 7th Ward: NOPD," 19 May 2018 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

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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Last Updated

25 Nov 2018

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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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