Definition of agent provocateur in English:

agent provocateur


  • A person employed to induce others to break the law so that they can be convicted.

    • ‘It is unclear which financial companies would be willing to provide that insurance, given the inability of the organizers of the demonstration to control agents provocateurs and the damage they can cause.’
    • ‘The activities of agents provocateurs against political dissidents in Imperial Russia was one of the grievances that led to the Russian Revolution.’
    • ‘A year later, four were hanged, even as evidence emerged revealing that the bomb may have been thrown by an agent provocateur in the employ of the police.’
    • ‘It employed agents provocateurs to lure people into unwise utterances.’
    • ‘With that in mind, they are concocting a conspiracy theory of their own - that he was either an agent provocateur, or the unwitting stooge of an agent provocateur, acting on behalf of the state to destroy the extreme right wing.’
    • ‘Only one gunman appears to have pulled a pistol from his pocket in the crowd, and this man's identity is controversial - with suggestions that agents provocateurs were active in the crowd.’
    • ‘In the film, a British agent provocateur named William Walker instigates a slave revolution that drives the occupying government out, thereby creating an independent Queimada, whose sugar production British merchants will control.’
    • ‘Keegan is suspicious of those who operate on the periphery of war - the spies, agents provocateurs, and James Bond types.’
    • ‘Survivors of the massacres had long insisted that the shooting that day had been initiated by agents provocateurs in civilian clothes, who distinguished themselves from the protesters by wearing white gloves.’
    • ‘It is also not clear how extensive the involvement of agents provocateurs, or police disguised as protesters, is in moments like this that threaten to tear apart the movement.’
    • ‘Some CGH members voiced their suspicion that the conflict had been initiated by agents provocateurs.’
    • ‘Is it not understood that this government has in the not-very-distant past sent out agents provocateurs?’
    • ‘The confusion - much of it intentional - in describing what is going on is based on not distinguishing the legitimate resistance from the agents provocateurs.’
    • ‘Reports circulated of agents provocateurs who had started the violence, of Black Block activists being dropped off by police vehicles, of right-wingers from Italy or abroad infiltrating their ranks.’
    • ‘Intrigue was seemingly everywhere in the period, with contemporary governments forced to deal with it by employing spies, and agents provocateurs.’
    • ‘As it is, I believe that trading standards should use children as agents provocateurs to gauge which shops are abiding to the law.’
    • ‘There are some who claim that Fawkes and co were framed, and the entire gunpowder plot was down to agents provocateurs, intended to further discredit Catholics and ensure that their lowly position in English society was cemented.’
    • ‘These agents provocateurs broke windows and carried out other acts of violence before turning on the other demonstrators, firing their weapons and making arrests.’
    • ‘If anything, these leaders act as agents provocateurs.’
    • ‘But there have been some suspicious incidents in the South in which one could imagine agents provocateurs playing a role.’
    initiator, prime mover, motivator, architect, designer, deviser, planner, shaper, inventor, maker, producer, contriver, mastermind, originator, author, creator, founder, pioneer, father, mother, founding father, agent
    View synonyms


Late 19th century: French, literally ‘provocative agent’.


agent provocateur

/aʒɑ̃ pʀɔvɔkatøʀ//ˌaʒɒ̃ prəˌvɒkəˈtəː/