a box for holding tinder, usually fitted with a flint and steel.
a person or thing that is highly excitable, explosive, inflammable, etc.; a potential source of widespread violence: Berlin was the tinderbox of Europe.

Origin of tinderbox

First recorded in 1520–30; tinder + box1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tinderbox

Contemporary Examples of tinderbox

Historical Examples of tinderbox

  • She found the tinderbox, and with trembling hands struck a light.

    White Lies

    Charles Reade

  • I need not be a witch to do that; now get your tinderbox from your bag, and I will arrange the wood.

    The Devil's Pool

    George Sand

  • Accordingly they obtained a light by means of the tinderbox and flint and steel.

  • On reaching his chamber he laid his hand on every possible ledge and corner for the tinderbox, but for a long time in vain.

    Wessex Tales

    Thomas Hardy

  • Take the flint and tinderbox, creep along the bank, and light a fire at that spot; maybe the smoke will draw them above us.

    The Pathfinder

    James Fenimore Cooper

British Dictionary definitions for tinderbox



a box used formerly for holding tinder, esp one fitted with a flint and steel
a person or thing that is particularly touchy or explosive
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 tinderbox

"box in which tinder and flint are kept," 1520s, from tinder + box (n.); figurative sense of " 'inflammable' person or thing" is attested from 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper