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See also: tinder-box and tinder box


Sheet Iron tinderboxes, 18th and early 19th c.

Alternative forms[edit]


tinder +‎ box


tinderbox (plural tinderboxes)

  1. (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.
  2. (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.
  3. (figuratively) 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.


(potentially dangerous situation):



Further reading[edit]