tin·​der·​box ˈtin-dər-ˌbäks How to pronounce tinderbox (audio)
: a metal box for holding tinder and usually a flint and steel for striking a spark
: a highly inflammable object or place
: a potentially explosive place or situation

Example Sentences

That old house is really a tinderbox. officials sought to calm the situation, which had grown into a tinderbox
Recent Examples on the Web Already, the innards of a landfill run hot, with the bacterial warmth of decomposition, insulated by blankets of garbage — a moist, chemically complex tinderbox. Eric Boodman, STAT, 18 Apr. 2023 The Oregon fire has ravaged the southern part of the state and has been expanding by up to 4 miles (6 kilometers) a day, pushed by gusting winds and critically dry weather that's turned trees and undergrowth into a tinderbox. Arkansas Online, 22 July 2021 Michigan in particular could be a tinderbox, said researchers at the Alethea Group, an organization combating disinformation, because of residual tensions from protests over pandemic restrictions that caused the state to cancel a legislative session. Anchorage Daily News, 1 Oct. 2020 But a deadly, unintended consequence has emerged: Storing and charging such bikes and scooters indoors can create a tinderbox. Joyce Cohen, BostonGlobe.com, 6 Mar. 2023 That spring, Europe was a tinderbox. Shaun Assael, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 June 2021 Gold Rush San Francisco was a tinderbox. Gary Kamiya, San Francisco Chronicle, 16 Apr. 2021 This was like a tinderbox. Fox News, 6 June 2020 Yet today, an aerial view reveals huge swaths of the countryside surrounding Canberra blackened from a firestorm that threatened to engulf the city in 2003, after months of scorching weather turned pine forests into a giant tinderbox. Linda Marsa, Discover Magazine, 25 Mar. 2012 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tinderbox.' 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

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of tinderbox was in 1530

Dictionary Entries Near tinderbox

Cite this Entry

“Tinderbox.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tinderbox. Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


tin·​der·​box -ˌbäks How to pronounce tinderbox (audio)
: a metal box for holding tinder and usually a flint and steel for striking a spark
: something that can easily catch fire

More from Merriam-Webster on tinderbox

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