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 instigate (audio) \ noun
instigative \ ˈin(t)-​stə-​ˌgā-​tiv How to pronounce instigate (audio) \ adjective
instigator \ ˈin(t)-​stə-​ˌgā-​tər How to pronounce instigate (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 And despite his best efforts to keep his head down and continue earning, Ray is quickly embroiled in a larger plot to find the original Lapsis and instigate a worker revolt. Kate Knibbs, Wired, "Lapsis and the Rise of Gig-Economy Sci-Fi," 25 Feb. 2021 So Biden’s federal government has to instigate, to work the gaps. Adam Rogers, Wired, "Biden’s Covid Plan Will Define His Presidency," 20 Jan. 2021 Riyadh and Abu Dhabi even threatened to instigate a coup, forcing Qatar to build a new alliance with Turkey. Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor, "End of yearslong Saudi-Qatar feud reunites families, and a region," 13 Jan. 2021 People that helped instigate that situation are no longer a part of the organization. Eric Branch, SFChronicle.com, "Trent Williams’ career goal: Earn a spot in 49ers’ ring of fame," 11 Dec. 2020 Stripped of their regalia, emperors are defiant until the end—attempting to instigate infighting and undermine the legitimacy of their successors. Fortune, "Secluded and deluded: Trump’s post-election actions show a mad-monarch mindset," 24 Nov. 2020 Up until now, there has been little will to instigate this shift in responsibility for productivity from the person to the organization. Cal Newport, The New Yorker, "The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done," 17 Nov. 2020 This is scary because where efforts by elites to silence dissent have succeeded, things haven’t ended well, even for those who instigate them. Mary Anastasia O’grady, WSJ, "How Free Speech Dies," 25 Oct. 2020 Musico is one of 14 men charged in the plot, which prosecutors say took on various iterations with multiple targets and was meant to instigate a civil war. Darcie Moran, Detroit Free Press, "Whitmer kidnap plot: possible citizen's arrest mentioned in March, prosecutor says," 24 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for instigate

Time Traveler

The first known use of instigate was in 1542

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Last Updated

4 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Instigate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/instigate. Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

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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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