Firebrand: The Definition

By | June 19, 2014

The Definition of a Firebrand

Firebrand Central

What do we refer to as a firebrand?

One dictionary gives several definitions (based on the Random House Dictionary) for the word firebrand:

Firebrand (fire-brand)



1.    a piece of burning wood or other material.

2.    a person who kindles strife or encourages unrest; an agitator; troublemaker.


The first definition of a firebrand: Something that’s used to bring about light in a dark area. It’s also used to  light a bigger fire such as a fireplace or to burn down structures set to be destroyed.

The second definition describes a person that one or many would consider an instigator or a provocateur. This type of person can have many different objectives, good or bad. Even though the term is used to generally describe a firebrand as a “troublemaker,” what’s considered to be trouble to one could be considered a necessary ignition to incite action by another.

Moving forward, we will focus on the firebrands of the political arena and their potential effects on society.

From a political perspective, a firebrand is known “as a person who causes political or social trouble by opposing authority and encouraging others to do so” (Cambridge Dictionaries Online).  

A firebrand can be someone fascist and diabolical as Nazi Germany’s master propagandist Joseph Goebbels or compassionate, sarcastic, and morally reprimanding as Florida Rep. Alan Grayson. As contrasting as these two human beings might be, they are both agitators and provocateurs.

Being a firebrand requires a high level of passion, determination, speaking effectively, and strength in a person’s convictions. This position can be one of great benefit to a society that needs to be ignited against their oppressors or it can be one that toxifies and poisons the minds of the multitude through demagoguery.

Firebrands have always been a part of history and societies across the world. Whether you’re a republican or democrat, conservative or liberal, Karl Rove or Anthony Weiner, there will always be those who will stoke the fire of debate regarding the public interest, and attempt to push all to challenge social systems.

For better or for worse.