agent provocateur

agent pro·​vo·​ca·​teur | \ ˈä-ˌzhäⁿ-prō-ˌvä-kə-ˈtər How to pronounce agent provocateur (audio) , ˈā-jənt-prō-ˌvä-kə-ˈtər How to pronounce agent provocateur (audio) \
plural agents provocateurs\ ˈä-​ˌzhäⁿ-​prō-​ˌvä-​kə-​ˈtər How to pronounce agents provocateurs (audio) , ˈā-​jən(t)s-​prō-​ \

Definition of agent provocateur

: one employed to associate with suspected persons and by pretending sympathy with their aims to incite them to some incriminating action

Examples of agent provocateur in a Sentence

The government used agents provocateurs to try to undermine the opposition party.
Recent Examples on the Web At the same time, agents provocateurs played a significant role in the turbulence. Adam Hochschild, The New Yorker, "When America Tried to Deport Its Radicals," 4 Nov. 2019 It is now known who that agent provocateur was that the FBI used and John Brennan used and James Clapper. Fox News, "Hannity: Another stinging setback for the special counsel," 17 May 2018 More in Moving Targets A more sinister possibility is that UFOs are loaded with agents provocateurs sent here to sow the seeds of discord in our society. Joe Queenan, WSJ, "What Those UFOs Are Really Up To," 21 Dec. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'agent provocateur.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of agent provocateur

1845, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for agent provocateur

borrowed from French, literally, "provoking agent"

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The first known use of agent provocateur was in 1845

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Cite this Entry

“Agent provocateur.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for agent provocateur

agent provocateur

How to pronounce agent provocateur (audio) How to pronounce agent provocateur (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of agent provocateur

: a person employed to encourage people to break the law so that they can be arrested

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