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tinderbox (plural tinderboxes)
- (historical) A small container containing flint, steel, and tinder (dry, finely-divided fibrous matter), once used to help kindle a fire.
- 1922 February, James Joyce, Ulysses, London: The Egoist Press, published October 1922, OCLC 2297483, pages 19–20:
- Haines helped himself and snapped the case to. He put it back in his sidepocket and took from his waistcoatpocket a nickel tinderbox, sprang it open too, and, having lit his cigarette, held the flaming spunk towards Stephen in the shell of his hands.
- 2007, Stephen Mitchell, The Tinderbox, page 5:
- Just bring me the old tinderbox that my grandmother forgot the last time she went down there.
- (by extension) A place that is so dry and hot that there is danger of fire.
- 1974, Harry Chapin (lyrics and music), “What Made America Famous”, in Verities & Balderdash:
- And then came the night that made America famous / Was it carelessness or someone's sick idea of a joke? / In the tinderbox trap that we hippies lived in, someone struck a spark
- 2010, L. K. Ludwig, Creative Wildfire: An Introduction to Art Journaling, page 30:
- Think of your blank journal as a tinderbox, a box for holding combustible materials, ready to catch fire when you sit down to work.
- (figurative) A potentially dangerous situation.
- 2010, H. S. Haskell, Sagebrush Or Gold Dust, page 291:
- This act was the "match that ignited the great tinderbox of fuel" that had been building for years between many of the countries in Europe.
small container containing flint, steel, and tinder
potentially dangerous situation