instigate

verb
in·​sti·​gate | \ ˈin(t)-stə-ˌgāt How to pronounce instigate (audio) \
instigated; instigating

Definition of instigate

transitive verb

: to goad or urge forward : provoke

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Other Words from instigate

instigation \ ˌin(t)-​stə-​ˈgā-​shən How to pronounce instigation (audio) \ noun
instigative \ ˈin(t)-​stə-​ˌgā-​tiv How to pronounce instigative (audio) \ adjective
instigator \ ˈin(t)-​stə-​ˌgā-​tər How to pronounce instigator (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for instigate

incite, instigate, abet, foment mean to spur to action. incite stresses a stirring up and urging on, and may or may not imply initiating. inciting a riot instigate definitely implies responsibility for initiating another's action and often connotes underhandedness or evil intention. instigated a conspiracy abet implies both assisting and encouraging. aiding and abetting the enemy foment implies persistence in goading. fomenting rebellion

Did You Know?

Instigate is often used as a synonym of incite (as in "hoodlums instigating violence"), but the two words differ slightly in their overall usage. Incite usually stresses an act of stirring something up that one did not necessarily initiate ("the court's decision incited riots"). Instigate implies responsibility for initiating or encouraging someone else's action and usually suggests dubious or underhanded intent ("he was charged with instigating a conspiracy"). Another similar word, foment, implies causing something by means of persistent goading ("the leader's speeches fomented a rebellion"). Deriving from the past participle of the Latin verb instigare, instigate first appeared in English in the mid-16th century, approximately 60 years after incite and about 70 years before foment.

Examples of instigate in a Sentence

There has been an increase in the amount of violence instigated by gangs. The government has instigated an investigation into the cause of the accident.

Recent Examples on the Web

This reckoning was instigated by a research paper written by Alice Wu, published in August 2017, just two months before the New York Times published the first wave of allegations against Harvey Weinstein and kicked off the #MeToo movement. Eshe Nelson, Quartz, "Economics needs to do more than attract women to solve its gender problem," 11 June 2019 Russia has also reportedly instigated a campaign of drone sabotage against Ukrainian military bases, particularly ammunition dumps, in one case causing a billion dollars’ worth of damage. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Russia Seizes Three Ukrainian Warships in Border Incident," 26 Nov. 2018 In this instance, Trump’s couch-potato management style instigated a rare positive course correction. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "The Genesis of Trump’s Family-Separation Policy," 22 June 2018 Gig workers’ nebulous existence, somewhere between employees and traditional contractors, has instigated several lawsuits. Lauren Markham, The Atlantic, "The Immigrants Fueling the Gig Economy," 20 June 2018 McGregor also was suspended from MMA competition for six months and fined $50,000 for his role in a brawl instigated by Nurmagomedov immediately after their bout last October. Greg Beacham, The Seattle Times, "Conor McGregor announces retirement on social media," 26 Mar. 2019 May’s delay on the Brexit deal vote created an opening for a Conservative rebellion that had been brewing for some weeks, instigated by hardline Brexiteers who loathe May’s deal and are agitating for a more decisive split from the EU. Jen Kirby, Vox, "British Prime Minister Theresa May survives no-confidence vote," 12 Dec. 2018 Efforts at negotiating a deal with the ELN had started under Mr. Duque’s predecessor, Juan Manuel Santos, but have made little progress with the rebels and the government accusing each other of instigating violence. Kejal Vyas, WSJ, "Colombian Rebel Group Claims Responsibility for Police Bombing," 21 Jan. 2019 There's only one problem: Raj never bothers to ask about Anu's ex-boyfriend, the guy who instigated this whole misunderstanding in the first place. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, "The Big Bang Theory Season 12, Episode 12 Recap: Penny and Leonard Have a Big Decision," 10 Jan. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'instigate.' 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 instigate

1542, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for instigate

Latin instigatus, past participle of instigare — more at stick

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Dictionary Entries near instigate

insteep

instellation

instep

instigate

instigatingly

instil

instill

Statistics for instigate

Last Updated

24 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for instigate

The first known use of instigate was in 1542

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More Definitions for instigate

instigate

verb

English Language Learners Definition of instigate

: to cause (something) to happen or begin

instigate

verb
in·​sti·​gate | \ ˈin-stə-ˌgāt How to pronounce instigate (audio) \
instigated; instigating

Kids Definition of instigate

: to cause to happen or begin He instigated the fight.

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Comments on instigate

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