Definition of incendiary in English:

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Pronunciation: /ɪnˈsɛndɪəri/


1(Of a device or attack) designed to cause fires: incendiary bombs
More example sentences
  • In addition, it is believed they possess crude electronic devices capable of triggering incendiary bombs.
  • These grenades were both fragmentary and incendiary devices designed to cause either death or serious battlefield injuries.
  • In the High Street two huge concrete water tanks were erected to provide emergency supplies to fight fires if any incendiary devices were dropped.
combustible, flammable, inflammable, fire-producing, fire-raising
2Tending to stir up conflict: incendiary rhetoric
More example sentences
  • Here, in order from least to most effective, is a look at how some people are using incendiary rhetoric, creative accounting and contract law to dodge the Revenue Canada taxman.
  • This incendiary rhetoric, Chege believes, helped fuel the Rwandan civil war of 1994 in which 850,000 Tutsi died.
  • Despite Daniels's incendiary rhetoric about gays, when asked by CNN's Paula Zahn if he was homophobic, he said no.
inflammatory, rabble-rousing, provocative, seditious, subversive, revolutionary, insurrectionary, insurrectionist;
arousing, stirring;
contentious, controversial
2.1Very exciting: an incendiary live performer
More example sentences
  • The band will tour before retiring at the end of this year after 10 years performing incendiary live shows across Europe to hundreds of thousands of fans - old & young.
  • Minakakis' passionate, incendiary delivery provided tangible pathos to the band's awe-inspiring but detached musicianship.
  • Muse certainly give their fans exactly what they want so as a live prospect, they are loud, explosive, incendiary and exciting.

noun (plural incendiaries)

1An incendiary bomb or device: the Holy City was blasted by incendiaries
More example sentences
  • That night airships dropped high explosive bombs and incendiaries on Bradley, Tipton, Wednesbury and Walsall.
  • Included were artillery shells, phosphorous flares, mortars, incendiaries and cluster bombs.
  • The British found that night bombing and incendiaries greatly increased their coercive power.
explosive, bomb, incendiary device
2A person who starts fires: he was an English incendiary, responsible for the burning of three French battleships
More example sentences
  • Reports arrived to say incendiaries had set fire to the top of the telephone exchange and once again stirrup pumps and buckets of water were rushed upstairs where the ceiling above the equipment was burning steadily.
  • In his painstaking The Reichstag Fire: Legend and Truth, Fritz Tobias concluded that the fire was the work of a lone incendiary, Marinus van der Lubbe.
  • This was something the Anglo-Saxons seem to have understood, as their legislation focused on malicious destruction of single trees by incendiaries, not willful setting of forest fires.
arsonist, fire-bomber, firesetter;
British  fire-raiser
informal firebug, pyro
North American informal torch
2.1A person who stirs up conflict: every bard was regarded as an incendiary
More example sentences
  • After the Boston Tea Party, Franklin was brought before the Privy Council, and denounced by Wedderburn, the solicitor-general, as a mischievous incendiary and a man no one could trust.
  • More than a great incendiary, Don is a revolutionary thinker.
  • He claimed that ‘She was an incendiary who has given unyielding support to violence’.
agitator, demagogue, rabble-rouser, firebrand, troublemaker, revolutionary, revolutionist, insurgent, subversive, instigator, inciter, soapbox orator;
French agent provocateur
informal tub-thumper, stirrer



Pronunciation: /ɪnˈsɛndɪərɪz(ə)m/
Example sentences
  • This extraordinary film is celluloid incendiarism, rabble-rousing cinema with a delirious, delicious edge of black comedy which I estimate to be about 90-95% intentional.
  • ‘This act of incendiarism is the most monstrous act of terrorism so far carried out,’ reported a 1933 Berlin newspaper.
  • It confirmed Foreign Secretary Russell's fears that ‘acts of plunder, of incendiarism, and of revenge’ would ravage the American continent.


Late Middle English: from Latin incendiarius, from incendium 'conflagration', from incendere 'set fire to'.

  • incandescent from late 18th century:

    This comes via French, from Latin incandescere ‘glow’, based on candidus ‘white’ ( see candidate). The prefix in- here intensifies the meaning. The incense (Middle English) that you burn comes from the related candere ‘to glow’, while the word meaning ‘to inflame with anger’ comes from the related incendere ‘set fire to’ also found in incendiary (Late Middle English).

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: in¦cen|di¦ary

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