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

Between April and November of 1919, white people in cities and towns across the country instigated race riots, attacking and often killing their black neighbors. Madeline Fitzgerald, Time, "Ensuring the Chicago Race Riot Is Not Forgotten, With Inspiration from Germany's Holocaust Memorials," 27 July 2019 Besides, my own generation probably instigated this decline in the first place. Lionel Shriver, Harper's magazine, "Semantic Drift," 22 July 2019 Many of those investigations were instigated by neighbors calling to complain about the plant’s emissions. Paul Cobler, Dallas News, "Frisco officials, residents go after asphalt plant with complaint history, urge state not to renew permit," 3 July 2019 The Colorado Classic is not alone in instigating this positive push toward equality in cycling and women’s sports. Lucy Diaz, The Denver Post, "Guest Commentary: Equality for women in pro cycling, starting with this year’s Colorado Classic," 17 July 2019 Having fallen at the hands of Italy four years prior, Rummenigge and his teammates took on Argentina at the Estadio Azteca in 1986, the striker instigating a stirring fightback with an instinctive effort on 74-minutes. SI.com, "The 50 Greatest Footballers Who Never Won the World Cup," 2 July 2019 The Turkish leader probably would instigate a purge of those within his party who were responsible for the humiliating defeat, Yetkin wrote. Washington Post, "By pushing for revote in Istanbul, Erdogan gambled — and lost," 25 June 2019 The reactor is basically a huge block of graphite in which uranium pellets were inserted, instigating a nuclear chain reaction that produced plutonium. William M. Gurstelle, Twin Cities, "Good ol’ Rocky Top: Visit the history, music, science of northeast Tennessee," 15 June 2019 Allegedly instigating a fight that led to her being shot in the stomach and losing her pregnancy. Leada Gore | Lgore@al.com, al.com, "Marshae Jones: What they’re saying about Alabama woman arrested after shooting death of unborn child," 27 June 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

5 Aug 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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