agent provocateur


plural agents provocateurs ˈä-ˌzhäⁿ-prō-ˌvä-kə-ˈtər How to pronounce agent provocateur (audio)
: 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 But De Niro’s attempt at playing agent provocateur stumbled badly: His decision to stand outside the New York Trump trial cost the actor his credibility. Armond White, National Review, 5 June 2024 Members of the crowd accused Epps of being an agent provocateur, which later helped spur the conspiracy theories about him. Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, 9 Jan. 2024 Jester, troubadour, agent provocateur, Serge Gainsbourg rhymed his way through life in a fog of Gitanes smoke, making music of every genre. Roger Cohen, New York Times, 25 Sep. 2023 The Globoplay Original, produced by the company’s journalism arm, examines the lives of those adjacent to the faction through interviews with the contingents’ defenders, defectors, sociologists and an agent provocateur that develops carefully-orchestrated chaos. Holly Jones, Variety, 20 Mar. 2023 Anyone who maligns the sultan is immediately thought to be an agent provocateur working for the sultan, and probably is. Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic, 30 Sep. 2022 The last dispatch from the alien/agent provocateur known as Greg Tate beamed out from perhaps his most inconspicuous dwelling. Tirhakah Love, Vulture, 14 Dec. 2021 At the same time, agents provocateurs played a significant role in the turbulence. Adam Hochschild, The New Yorker, 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, 17 May 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'agent provocateur.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from French, literally, "provoking agent"

First Known Use

1845, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of agent provocateur was in 1845

Dictionary Entries Near agent provocateur

Cite this Entry

“Agent provocateur.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jun. 2024.

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