tin·​der·​box | \ ˈtin-dər-ˌbäks How to pronounce tinderbox (audio) \

Definition of tinderbox

1a : a metal box for holding tinder and usually a flint and steel for striking a spark
b : a highly inflammable object or place
2 : a potentially explosive place or situation

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Examples of tinderbox in a Sentence

That old house is really a tinderbox. the city has been a tinderbox ever since racial profiling became an issue
Recent Examples on the Web As summer takes hold, the Manzanita, chemise and pines will dry, setting up tinderbox conditions in the forested corridor bridging Yosemite and Kings Canyon national parks. Tom Stienstra, SFChronicle.com, "With 147 million dead trees, Californians brace again for fire," 4 July 2019 Buried electrical wires decrease the chance that power lines will spark a wildfire, but the surrounding landscape remains a tinderbox created by ongoing drought. Akshat Rathi, Quartz, "Climate resilience will come from prioritizing humans—not what we’ve built," 3 Dec. 2019 The new Ukrainian leader has said little publicly about Ukraine’s wish to eventually join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a tinderbox issue for the Russian government. Laura King, Los Angeles Times, "How Ukraine found itself at the heart of an intensifying Trump scandal," 24 Sep. 2019 Experts warn large portions of the country are already experiencing drought, with gusty and unusually warm and dry conditions leaving regions like a tinderbox as the Southern Hemisphere spring begins. Fox News, "Two teenagers arrested over Australian bushfire; firefighters continue to battle at least 50 blazes," 12 Sep. 2019 With their rarefied spaces and lofty missions, museums and other cultural institutions have not been known as tinderboxes of labor activism. New York Times, "Inside Hushed Museum Hallways, a Rumble Over Pay Grows Louder," 22 July 2019 Prosecutors say Almena and Harris knowingly created a tinderbox with inadequate means of escape. Hailey Branson-potts, latimes.com, "Ghost Ship trial: A weary dad sits in court every day, missing his daughter," 11 June 2019 This elegant, suspenseful crime novel centers on two families — one black, one Korean — in the racial tinderbox of contemporary Los Angeles. New York Times, "New & Noteworthy, From Ghost Stories to Essays on Female Identity," 22 Oct. 2019 All agree that American leadership could be one of the few factors that could help prevent Iran’s Syria presence from igniting a regional tinderbox. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, "What Russian deal? Israel and Jordan cast wary eye toward Syria.," 12 Aug. 2019

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

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for tinderbox

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The first known use of tinderbox was in 1530

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Statistics for tinderbox

Last Updated

24 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Tinderbox.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tinderbox. Accessed 17 January 2020.

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More Definitions for tinderbox


How to pronounce tinderbox (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of tinderbox

: a box that holds material that can be used to start a fire easily : a container for tinder
: a structure that would burn very quickly if it caught on fire
: a place or situation that could suddenly become very violent

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More from Merriam-Webster on tinderbox

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tinderbox

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tinderbox

Nglish: Translation of tinderbox for Spanish Speakers

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a plan in which a last survivor takes all

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