pro·vo·ca·teur | \prō-ˌvä-kə-ˈtər \

Definition of provocateur 

2 : one who provokes a political provocateur

Keep scrolling for more

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

a calculating, right-wing provocateur, she has made a career out of controversy for its own sake

Recent Examples on the Web

Roseanne's reputation as a provocateur was arguably nothing new, even before the recent scrutiny on her public statements. Daniel Arkin /, NBC News, "Roseanne Barr was a gamble for ABC long before Tuesday's cancellation," 29 May 2018 California has a prominent history as a public health provocateur. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "The Crazy Story Behind Why California Just Banned Soda Taxes," 29 June 2018 Soriano found a kindred spirit in Joy Villa: a provocateur unafraid of controversy in the ruthless pursuit of fame. Elizabeth Raiss,, "Who Is Andre Soriano, The Gay, Immigrant Designer Obsessed With Donald Trump?," 27 June 2018 That company, backed by former Trump aide and right-wing provocateur Steve Bannon, specializes in data mining for conservative political purposes. David Lazarus,, "Facebook says you 'own' all the data you post. Not even close, say privacy experts," 19 Mar. 2018 While Palestinians saw the video as a child standing up to her occupiers, many Israelis saw Ahed as a provocateur attempting to provoke a reaction — which the soldiers did not give. Loveday Morris, Washington Post, "Israel’s decision to put a Palestinian teen on trial could come back to bite it," 13 Feb. 2018 Far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos shared an image of the Twitter profiles of eight advocates at Google, many of them transgender employees, with his 2.5 million Facebook followers. Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY, "Google employees say the company's not doing enough to protect them from harassment, threats," 26 Jan. 2018 Mexico is preparing for another election in July, with left-wing provocateur and former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador the early frontrunner, and gang violence may again prove a key polling issue. Eli Meixler, Time, "With Over 29,000 Homicides, 2017 Was Mexico's Most Violent Year on Record," 23 Jan. 2018 Some of this — like putting Pop provocateurs Ai Weiwei and Andy Warhol next to each other — was just personal and opinionated categorization. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A library and an unexpected journey toward household togetherness," 28 June 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of provocateur

1919, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about provocateur

Share provocateur

Listen to Our Podcast about provocateur

Dictionary Entries near provocateur








Statistics for provocateur

Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for provocateur

The first known use of provocateur was in 1919

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on provocateur

See words that rhyme with provocateur

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


evasion of direct action or statement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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