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[pruh-vok-uh-tur, -too r; French praw-vaw-ka-tœr] /prəˌvɒk əˈtɜr, -ˈtʊər; French prɔ vɔ kaˈtœr/
noun, plural provocateurs
[pruh-vok-uh-turz, -too rz; French praw-vaw-ka-tœr] /prəˌvɒk əˈtɜrz, -ˈtʊərz; French prɔ vɔ kaˈtœr/ (Show IPA)
a person who provokes trouble, causes dissension, or the like; agitator.
(italics) French. agent provocateur.
Origin of provocateur
1915-20; < French < Latin prōvocātor challenger, appellant, equivalent to provocā(re) to provoke + -tor -tor Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for provocateur
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • You had to point out to them several times that it was Oswald who was the Castro provocateur, so to say, and not you?

    Warren Commission (10 of 26): Hearings Vol. X (of 15) The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy
  • The Whites put up a provocateur as before a pogrom in Russia.

    The Soul of John Brown Stephen Graham
  • More than once the charge of being a provocateur was leveled at Lenine and at Trotzky, but without justification, apparently.

    Bolshevism John Spargo
  • The provocateur is rewarded with greater liberty and special privileges.

    Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist Alexander Berkman
  • A few detectives had also managed to find their way here, and there was even one provocateur.

    The Created Legend Feodor Sologub
British Dictionary definitions for provocateur


a person who deliberately behaves controversially in order to provoke argument or other strong reactions
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 provocateur

1915 (Emma Goldman), shortened form of agent provocateur "person hired to make trouble" (1845), from French provocateur, from Latin provocator "challenger," from provocare "to call out" (see provoke).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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