Word of the Day : January 26, 2013


noun proh-vah-kuh-TER


: one who incites or stimulates another to action

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."


The show's host is a notable provocateur who has made a career of creating controversy for its own sake.

"The 66-year-old director has always fared best as a provocateur. His 1991 film, JFK, might not be great history, but it did prompt the release of thousands of pages of previously classified documents. [Oliver] Stone is a relentless stirrer who is never happier than when tipping buckets on the received wisdom." - From an article by Tim Elliott in the Sydney Morning Herald, December 15, 2012

Name That Synonym

Fill in the blanks to create a synonym of "provocateur": frbad. The answer is ...


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