pro·​vo·​ca·​teur | \ prō-ˌvä-kə-ˈtər How to pronounce provocateur (audio) \

Definition of provocateur

2 : one who provokes a political provocateur

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Did You Know?

In "provocateur," a word borrowed directly from French, one sees the English verb "provoke." Both "provoke" and "provocateur" derive from Latin provocare, meaning "to call forth." Why do we say "provocateur" for one who incites another to action, instead of simply "provoker"? Perhaps it's because of "agent provocateur," a term of French origin that literally means "provoking agent." Both "agent provocateur" and the shortened "provocateur" can refer to someone (such as an undercover police officer or a political operative) whose job is to incite people to break the law so that they can be arrested, but only "provocateur" is used in English with the more general sense of "one who provokes."

Examples of provocateur in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The violent video, concocted by right-wing provocateurs, was later disavowed by the White House. New York Times, "After Another Year of Trump Attacks, ‘Ominous Signs’ for the American Press," 30 Dec. 2019 Once again, Second Amendment provocateur Jon Caldara got free rein to sell the gun industry’s products on The Denver Post’s editorial page. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: RTD service issues unacceptable; Caldara’s Christmas gift advice is locked and loaded (12/29/19)," 29 Dec. 2019 Donald Trump’s critics were disappointed by a lack of evidence tying him to the Russian provocateurs. The Economist, "The world this year," 18 Dec. 2019 Democrats blame Section 230 for letting the likes of Facebook shrug while bullies and Russian provocateurs run riot on its services. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "Big Tech’s Favorite Legal Shield Is in Danger," 20 Nov. 2019 Bad actors—trolls, foreign agents, and domestic provocateurs—benefit the most from the current system, where anyone can create hundreds of fake accounts and use them to manipulate millions of people. Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic, "Why It Feels Like Everything Is Going Haywire," 12 Nov. 2019 For a time, West’s music spoke louder than his provocateur’s instincts; his first five studio albums remain new-century landmarks of pop invention. Greg Kot,, "Kanye West review: 'Jesus Is King’ puts gospel message ahead of musicality," 25 Oct. 2019 In , historian Ted Gioia reclaims the story of music for the riffraff, insurgents, and provocateurs. Ted Gioia, Smithsonian, "The Tragic Story of America’s First Black Music Star," 18 Oct. 2019 Engels also is associated with political provocateur Roger Stone, currently under indictment on charges of obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering. Gray Rohrer,, "Year before election, Jason Brodeur’s state Senate campaign has already spent $1.3 million," 22 Aug. 2019

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

1919, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of provocateur was in 1919

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Last Updated

14 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Provocateur.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 20 January 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on provocateur

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for provocateur

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with provocateur

Comments on provocateur

What made you want to look up provocateur? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not to be intimidated or subdued

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