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

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

Recent Examples on the Web

All the same, this reviewer could not help longing for a glimpse of Madonna the provocateur. C.m., The Economist, "Madonna remains scandalous, but for the wrong reason," 19 June 2019 More in Politics In many ways, the ACA and health policy were natural targets for the provocateurs. Paul Overberg, WSJ, "Nearly 600 Russia-Linked Accounts Tweeted About the Health Law," 12 Sep. 2018 At its extreme, it’s practiced by professional provocateurs and the various entertainers at Fox News, who make bank and build national profiles by promoting white supremacist views. Yvonne Abraham,, "You can call it performance bigotry or hipster racism. But Harvard was right in rescinding Kyle Kashuv’s acceptance," 19 June 2019 Far more than a provocateur and party girl, Babitz was a medium for the animal spirit of 1960s and ‘70s Hollywood. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Most Anticipated Books of 2019: 19 Picks You Should Have on Your Reading List," 1 Jan. 2019 Israeli critics paint them as provocateurs and even actors, with a subcommittee of the parliament launching an investigation in 2015 into whether the family was real or actors. Loveday Morris, Washington Post, "How a Palestinian teen’s rubber-bullet injury to the brain turned to a biking accident overnight," 27 Feb. 2018 Even after last year's blockbuster retrospective at The Whitney (the first in the United States since 1989), there's still more to uncover about the late provocateur and society fixture, and plenty of important work to see. Liz Cantrell, Town & Country, "Andy Warhol Fans Have Two New Must-See Shows," 25 Apr. 2019 Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and conservative provocateur Laura Loomer, both of whom have been banned from Twitter for violating its terms of service, have complained that the social media company is out to get them. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Rudy Giuliani’s bizarre Twitter conspiracy theory, explained," 5 Dec. 2018 What this episode shows is that under the right circumstances, the controversial no-platforming tactics — which range from activists noisily disrupting speeches to big tech corporations banning provocateurs from their platforms — really can work. Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "Milo Yiannopoulos’s collapse shows that no-platforming can work," 5 Dec. 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

Listen to Our Podcast about provocateur

Dictionary Entries near provocateur








Statistics for provocateur

Last Updated

15 Jul 2019

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

Rhyming Dictionary: 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).


something desired as essential

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Bee Cubed

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!