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verb (used with object), pro·voked, pro·vok·ing.
  1. to anger, enrage, exasperate, or vex.
  2. to stir up, arouse, or call forth (feelings, desires, or activity): The mishap provoked a hearty laugh.
  3. to incite or stimulate (a person, animal, etc.) to action.
  4. to give rise to, induce, or bring about: What could have provoked such an incident?
  5. Obsolete. to summon.

Origin of provoke

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 formspro·vok·er, nounmis·pro·voke, verb (used with object), mis·pro·voked, mis·pro·vok·ing.o·ver·pro·voke, verb, o·ver·pro·voked, o·ver·pro·vok·ing.pre·pro·voke, verb (used with object), pre·pro·voked, pre·pro·vok·ing.un·pro·voked, adjective

Synonyms for provoke

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Synonym study

1. See irritate. 2, 3. See incite. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for unprovoked

Contemporary Examples of unprovoked

Historical Examples of unprovoked

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for unprovoked


  1. not provoked by anything done or said


verb (tr)
  1. to anger or infuriate
  2. to cause to act or behave in a certain manner; incite or stimulate
  3. to promote (certain feelings, esp anger, indignation, etc) in a person
  4. obsolete to summon
Derived Formsprovoking, adjectiveprovokingly, adverb

Word Origin for provoke

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

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