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[in-sti-geyt] /ˈɪn stɪˌgeɪt/
verb (used with object), instigated, instigating.
to cause by incitement; foment:
to instigate a quarrel.
to urge, provoke, or incite to some action or course:
to instigate the people to revolt.
Origin of instigate
1535-45; < Latin instīgātus past participle of instīgāre to goad on, impel, equivalent to in- in-2 + -stīg- goad, prick (akin to stigma, stick2) + -ātus -ate1
Related forms
instigatingly, adverb
instigative, adjective
instigator, instigant
[in-sti-guh nt] /ˈɪn stɪ gənt/ (Show IPA),
uninstigated, adjective
uninstigative, adjective
1. arouse, provoke. 2. induce, stimulate, encourage, push; initiate, start. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for instigator
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • All at once it occurred to him that some reward was due the instigator of his success.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • John C. Calhoun was, or was charged with being, the instigator of this movement.

    The Nation in a Nutshell George Makepeace Towle
  • Or, she can see the objects, admire them, but seek beyond them for their instigator and Creator.

    The Prodigal Returns Lilian Staveley
  • They believed the Iron Duke to be the instigator and encourager of a shabby trick.

    The Shellback's Progress Walter Runciman
  • Why should these young men, who were led into this scheme by me, suffer as much as the instigator?

    My Bondage and My Freedom Frederick Douglass
  • Can there be an instinct without an instigation or an instigator?

  • And she had been the instigator of it, and Doctor Hilary had called it a miracle.

    Antony Gray,--Gardener Leslie Moore
  • Had Madame, therefore, been the instigator of the revenge, she would have been right.

    Ten Years Later Alexandre Dumas, Pere
British Dictionary definitions for instigator


verb (transitive)
to bring about, as by incitement or urging: to instigate rebellion
to urge on to some drastic or inadvisable action
Derived Forms
instigatingly, adverb
instigation, noun
instigative, adjective
instigator, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin instīgāre to stimulate, incite; compare Greek stizein to prick
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for instigator

1590s, from Latin instigator, agent noun from instigare (see instigation). Fem. formation instigatrix is recorded from 1610s.



1540s, back-formation from instigation or else from Latin instigatus, past participle of instigare "to urge on, incite" (see instigation). Related: Instigated; instigates; instigating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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