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

The provocateur in chief, President Donald Trump, is behind the question. John Kass,, "Column: Democrats might win census citizen question in courts but lose at the ballot box.," 10 July 2019 There is no mystery to probe, no conspiracy theory to prove, so Broomfield the bumbling provocateur is not necessary. Mark Olsen,, "Indie Focus: Come away with 'Midsommar'," 5 July 2019 Freedom of speech should not be a partisan issue; self-censorship and ideological uniformity are greater risks to liberty than a few kids protesting a provocateur. Sahil Handa, National Review, "What Conservatives Get Wrong about the Campus Wars," 4 July 2019 Police released the email’s contents on Monday, which some observers say may have been sent as a joke by right-wing provocateurs., "Bloody clashes in downtown Portland put police, mayor on defensive," 1 July 2019 This weekend and today, the president has once again been a provocateur with his racist, bigoted, and misogynistic language. Katrina Pross, Twin Cities, "How Minnesota politicians respond to Trump’s tweets against Omar and three other Democratic congresswomen," 15 July 2019 But its use inevitably implied that the victim-provocateur was at least partially to blame. Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker, "The End of the Gay-Panic Legal Defense," 8 July 2019 Of course, nobody can pin Kevin Durant’s decision to play (and the team’s approval) on an article or a chorus of basketball provocateurs, but Durant has been bothered by online opprobrium before. Matthew De Silva, Quartz, "Social media deserves blame for Kevin Durant’s injury," 18 June 2019 Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn of Colorado and conservative provocateurs Candace Owens, Charlie Kirk and Frank Gaffney. Justin Wingerter, The Denver Post, "HUD Secretary Ben Carson returns to Colorado next month," 14 June 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.

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

9 Sep 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).


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!