pro·​vo·​ca·​teur prō-ˌvä-kə-ˈtər How to pronounce provocateur (audio)
: one who provokes
a political provocateur

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 With right-wing provocateur Stephen K. Bannon, who was found guilty last summer of contempt of Congress, Navarro is the second high-ranking Trump official to be convicted in a criminal case related to efforts to undo President Biden’s victory at the polls. Paul Duggan, Washington Post, 7 Sep. 2023 Instead, he’s played footsie with the idea that the riot might have been caused by federal provocateurs. The Editors, National Review, 23 Aug. 2023 More recently, the account retweeted several posts with anti-LGBTQ sentiments from right-wing provocateur Matt Walsh, who has over 2.4 million followers on X, and far-right cable news channel One America News Network, also known as OAN. Matt Lavietes, NBC News, 22 Aug. 2023 Wartman keeps a fairly low profile, though his name surfaced in the press recently when Rolling Stone reported that the right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos had used Wartman’s credit card to buy a prospective campaign Web site for Kanye West. Charles Bethea, The New Yorker, 12 June 2023 Far-right Scandinavian provocateurs have burned the Quran occasionally for years to signal their opposition to Muslim immigration into countries like Denmark. Aaron Boxerman, New York Times, 25 Aug. 2023 As Trump schemed to overturn the 2020 election, many of his aides and allies were under no illusion that Trump — a longtime provocateur — had actually won. Mary Clare Jalonick,, 2 Aug. 2023 One of the four, right-wing provocateur Stephen K. Bannon, a Trump political adviser who was chief White House strategist for the first six months of his presidency, was charged with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for defying the committee’s demands for testimony and documents. Paul Duggan, Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2023 The advisory viewed by The Post cites a tweet by right-wing provocateur Laura Loomer. Shayna Jacobs, David Nakamura, Hannah Allam, Isaac Arnsdorf, The Washington Post, Anchorage Daily News, 12 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word '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

First Known Use

1919, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of provocateur was in 1919


Dictionary Entries Near provocateur

Cite this Entry

“Provocateur.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!