used or adapted for setting property on fire: incendiary bombs.
of or relating to the criminal setting on fire of property.
tending to arouse strife, sedition, etc.; inflammatory: incendiary speeches.
tending to inflame the senses: an incendiary extravaganza of music and dance.

noun, plural in·cen·di·ar·ies.

Origin of incendiary

1600–10; < Latin incendiārius, equivalent to incendi(um) a fire (incend(ere) to kindle (in- in-2 + -cendere, transitive v. from base of candēre to shine, be hot; see candent, candid, candor) + -ium -ium) + -ārius -ary Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for incendiary

Contemporary Examples of incendiary

Historical Examples of incendiary

  • But the incendiary had taken care to do his work so well that it was already impossible.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • That is why, to save my life, I had to be an incendiary at times, and at others a footpad.

    The Book of Khalid

    Ameen Rihani

  • Stanley, wheeling like a flash, gave chase to the incendiary.

    The Mountain Divide

    Frank H. Spearman

  • Obscurantism is better than the light of incendiary torches.

    Under Western Eyes

    Joseph Conrad

  • Certainly you are an incendiary: you have set fire to the peace of faithful souls.

    Debts of Honor

    Maurus Jkai

British Dictionary definitions for incendiary



of or relating to the illegal burning of property, goods, etc
tending to create strife, violence, etc; inflammatory
(of a substance) capable of catching fire, causing fires, or burning readily

noun plural -aries

a person who illegally sets fire to property, goods, etc; arsonist
(esp formerly) a person who stirs up civil strife, violence, etc, for political reasons; agitator
Also called: incendiary bomb a bomb that is designed to start fires
an incendiary substance, such as phosphorus

Word Origin for incendiary

C17: from Latin incendiārius setting alight, from incendium fire, from incendere to kindle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for incendiary

c.1400 as a noun, "person who sets malicious fires;" mid-15c. as an adjective, "capable of being used to set fires," from Latin incendiarius "causing a fire," from incendium "conflagration," from incendere "set on fire," figuratively, "incite, rouse, enrage," from in- "into, in, on, upon" (see in- (2)) + *candere "to set alight, cause to glow," related to candere "to shine" (see candle). Figurative sense of "enflaming passions" (adj.) is from 1610s. Military use, of bombs, shells, etc., attested from 1871. The obsolete verb incend is attested from c.1500.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper