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

For years, India’s Hindu nationalists have wanted to curtail the special freedoms enjoyed by Kashmir, a mountainous, predominantly Muslim territory that has turned into a tinderbox between India and Pakistan, both of which wield nuclear arms. New York Times, "India Revokes Kashmir’s Special Status, Raising Fears of Unrest," 5 Aug. 2019 That was also the last time the United Nations Security Council officially listed the tinderbox known as Kashmir as a topic of discussion. Richard Roth, CNN, "UN Security Council has its first meeting on Kashmir in decades -- and fails to agree on a statement," 16 Aug. 2019 The Salisbury Braves were one of six teams in the Western Carolina League, all based in North Carolina, which was a tinderbox as segregation grudgingly gave way to integration. Tom Verducci, SI.com, "The Hard, Historic Roads That Lead to Baseball's Magic Number: .400," 8 Aug. 2019 Hawaii had long been a tinderbox of colonial tensions; Maunakea simply lit the flame. Trisha Kehaulani Watson-sproat, Vox, "Why Native Hawaiians are fighting to protect Maunakea from a telescope," 24 July 2019 Prosecutors say Almena, the master tenant of the warehouse, allowed dozens of people to illegally live in the unsanctioned artists’ utopia and ignored warnings that the space was a tinderbox. Megan Cassidy, SFChronicle.com, "Ghost Ship trial: Prosecutors use defendant’s words against him," 11 July 2019 What Chelsea didn’t know was that master tenant Derrick Almena built that tinderbox inside the warehouse with no safety precautions. Colleen Dolan, The Mercury News, "Crushing news Ghost Ship inferno victim’s mom learned from trial," 19 July 2019 California in particular is such a tinderbox that something as seemingly innocuous as hammering a stake into the ground can unleash an uncontrollable inferno. Thomas Fuller, New York Times, "He Tried to Plug a Wasp Nest. He Ended Up Sparking California’s Biggest Wildfire.," 11 June 2019 Alaskan tinderbox Strike zone More than 90 percent of forest fires in Alaska between 1956 and 1999 were caused by lightning. Mark Jenkins, National Geographic, "When wildfires break out, this elite team of ‘smokejumpers’ parachute in," 12 June 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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Dictionary Entries near tinderbox





tinder fungus


tin dichloride

Statistics for tinderbox

Last Updated

3 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for tinderbox

The first known use of tinderbox was in 1530

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on tinderbox

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tinderbox

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tinderbox

Nglish: Translation of tinderbox for Spanish Speakers

Comments on tinderbox

What made you want to look up tinderbox? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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