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[pruh-vok-uh-tiv] /prəˈvɒk ə tɪv/
tending or serving to provoke; inciting, stimulating, irritating, or vexing.
something provocative.
Origin of provocative
late Middle English
First recorded in 1375-1425; late Middle English word from Late Latin word prōvocātīvus. See provocation, -ive
Related forms
provocatively, adverb
provocativeness, noun
half-provocative, adjective
nonprovocative, adjective
nonprovocatively, adverb
nonprovocativeness, noun
quasi-provocative, adjective
quasi-provocatively, adverb
unprovocative, adjective
unprovocatively, adverb
unprovocativeness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for provocative
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Monsieur, if you wish to be heard, let me beg of you not to be provocative in your language.

    Scaramouche Rafael Sabatini
  • If the few words I have used so far have been provocative, I regret it.

    Scaramouche Rafael Sabatini
  • To see these flying-fish this way was provocative of thought.

    Tales of Fishes Zane Grey
  • The conduct of McNeice and Malcolmson was offensive and provocative.

    The Red Hand of Ulster George A. Birmingham
  • Theirs indeed was not provocative of discussion; if satisfactory, it was also obvious.

    Tristram of Blent Anthony Hope
British Dictionary definitions for provocative


acting as a stimulus or incitement, esp to anger or sexual desire; provoking: a provocative look, a provocative remark
Derived Forms
provocatively, adverb
provocativeness, noun
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 provocative

mid-15c., "eliciting," from Middle French provocatif (15c.) and directly from Late Latin provocativus "calling forth," from provocat-, past participle stem of Latin provocare (see provoke). Specifically of sexual desire from 1620s. Related: Provocatively; provocativeness. The earliest appearance of the word in English is as a noun meaning "an aphrodisiac" (early 15c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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