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[pruh-vohk] /prəˈvoʊk/
verb (used with object), provoked, provoking.
to anger, enrage, exasperate, or vex.
to stir up, arouse, or call forth (feelings, desires, or activity):
The mishap provoked a hearty laugh.
to incite or stimulate (a person, animal, etc.) to action.
to give rise to, induce, or bring about:
What could have provoked such an incident?
Obsolete. to summon.
Origin of provoke
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English < Latin prōvocāre to call forth, challenge, provoke, equivalent to prō- pro-1 + vocāre to call; akin to vōx voice
Related forms
provoker, noun
misprovoke, verb (used with object), misprovoked, misprovoking.
overprovoke, verb, overprovoked, overprovoking.
preprovoke, verb (used with object), preprovoked, preprovoking.
unprovoked, adjective
1. irk, annoy, aggravate, exacerbate, infuriate. 2. rouse, instigate.
Synonym Study
1. See irritate. 2, 3. See incite. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for unprovoked
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And if you ask as friends, you have done us bitter wrong, by attacking us unprovoked.

  • The attack was so unprovoked that Stroeve, taken unawares, was defenceless.

    The Moon and Sixpence W. Somerset Maugham
  • That still doesn't excuse a wanton and unprovoked aggression!

    A Slave is a Slave Henry Beam Piper
  • This calamity is not the work of the unprovoked fury of the angry elements.

    The Johnstown Horror James Herbert Walker
  • The war was the result of Germany's unprovoked invasion of our shores.

    The Message Alec John Dawson
  • There certainly is some mystery, the attack was so unprovoked, the determination so positive.

    Percival Keene Frederick Marryat
British Dictionary definitions for unprovoked


not provoked by anything done or said


verb (transitive)
to anger or infuriate
to cause to act or behave in a certain manner; incite or stimulate
to promote (certain feelings, esp anger, indignation, etc) in a person
(obsolete) to summon
Derived Forms
provoking, adjective
provokingly, adverb
Word Origin
C15: from Latin prōvocāre to call forth, from vocāre to call
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 unprovoked

1580s, from un- (1) "not" + past participle of provoke.



late 14c., from Old French provoker, provochier (12c., Modern French provoquer) and directly from Latin provocare "call forth, challenge," from pro- "forth" (see pro-) + vocare "to call" (see voice (n.)). Related: Provoked; provoking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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