Definition of provoke in English:



  • 1 Stimulate or give rise to (a reaction or emotion, typically a strong or unwelcome one) in someone.

    ‘the decision provoked a storm of protest from civil rights organizations’
    • ‘Having provoked a strong reaction from most students at the college, a number of the posters have been taken down.’
    • ‘It is in the film to horrify and provoke an emotional reaction.’
    • ‘From a design point of view, something about their absolutely neutral formal character provokes strong reactions.’
    • ‘After all, a strong leader provokes a strong reaction.’
    • ‘The exhibit by internationally-renowned artist Jannis Kounellis has succeeded in provoking strong reactions’
    • ‘Deconstructionism is one of the words that provokes a strong reaction from both sides.’
    • ‘In fact the commission's analysis of the state of British convergence with the eurozone was very mild, extremely careful and deliberately designed to avoid provoking a bust-up.’
    • ‘Pipes' presence on campus is provoking strong feelings among students and faculty on both sides of the issue.’
    • ‘The Sri Lankan army, which has inflicted widespread damage and constantly harasses local residents, recently killed several local youth, provoking angry protests.’
    • ‘It is also counterproductive. Exerting pressure arouses mistrust and provokes fresh attacks from the Church's critics.’
    • ‘Genetic manipulation of food products provokes strong emotions whenever it is discussed.’
    • ‘The variability of the margin of appreciation has sometimes provoked strong reactions from judges frustrated by its imprecision.’
    • ‘Their request to do so was rejected, a rejection which provoked a strong reaction.’
    • ‘It's unfair to suggest that he deliberately provokes dressing room conflict, but he's not the ideal chap to apply soothing balm when it breaks out.’
    • ‘In his debut novel he sets out to provoke strong reactions and, given his subject matter, doubtless he will succeed.’
    • ‘The resignation that followed and the outrage provoked by the decision prompted an irrevocable split within the committee.’
    • ‘Cromwell's name resonates down the centuries and provokes strong reactions to this day.’
    • ‘The implementation of very strong environmental protection legislation in the USA provoked a strong backlash.’
    • ‘Further, eyewitnesses suggest that the police are deliberately provoking violence.’
    • ‘They wanted to see if they could provoke a strong reaction from me.’
    arouse, produce, evoke, cause, give rise to, occasion, call forth, draw forth, elicit, induce, inspire, excite, spark off, touch off, kindle, generate, engender, instigate, result in, lead to, bring on, contribute to, make for, foster, promote, breed, precipitate, prompt, trigger
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    1. 1.1Stimulate or incite (someone) to do or feel something, especially by arousing anger in them.
      ‘a teacher can provoke you into working harder’
      • ‘Quinn, her husband and her friends are in no doubt that Blunkett's hand was in the revelation, as part of a desperate, last-ditch attempt to save the relationship by provoking her husband to end the marriage.’
      • ‘Maybe it was the winter flu crisis that educated the Prime Minister, provoking him to tell Sir David Frost, on the Sunday morning television sofa, that Britain would have to make a real change in the way it funded its health service.’
      • ‘You know that you are provoking me to say things.’
      • ‘I don't think of myself as a psychiatric case but I had to feel that Spider was provoking me to consider existential matters of the human condition.’
      • ‘Mike's rowdiness, his provoking his father to anger, was not the cause of his father's death, absolutely not.’
      • ‘Secondly, we need a leader of charisma to badger and provoke his colleagues into action.’
      • ‘The power of his language is illustrated through performance, provoking the audience to re-assess Shakespeare and his plays.’
      • ‘She is also comfortable following a traditional line with novels that do not seek to challenge or provoke the reader.’
      • ‘The plight of Dr Saleh, an Iraqi Kurd, was first published in the Yorkshire Post more than a year ago, provoking residents in Keighley to write to their MP Ann Cryer.’
      • ‘Anger over pay is already provoking many workers into action.’
      • ‘There are times when you have to provoke people, challenge them to go further.’
      • ‘Rather, they make her work harder to achieve it and they also provoke her to motivate other associates for the cause.’
      • ‘That would mean if an intruder provoked you to violence, you would only be convicted if the intruder could prove that he or she was no threat.’
      • ‘We managed to provoke him to get up once, when he challenged Opposition members to substantiate their arguments.’
      • ‘It said his name in a mocking way, provoking him to an anger that he dared not express in front of such a fiend.’
      • ‘Indeed, Maytag tried to tighten control further and force more concessions, provoking workers to the brink of a strike in 2002.’
      • ‘Whites smashed the windows in Holloway's home and threatened Coe's family, provoking him to put a gun in every room of his home.’
      • ‘At one point, Kirie asks her father about his conversation with the aforementioned spiral fetishist, provoking him to indignantly accuse her of eavesdropping.’
      • ‘I view theatre as an institution that educates, stimulates, and provokes the audience - it makes them think and feel.’
      • ‘The anger lasted for a long time, trying to provoke her into saying things she would regret.’
      goad, spur, prick, sting, prod, egg on, hound, badger, incite, rouse, stir, move, stimulate, motivate, excite, inflame, fire up, work up, impel, pressure, pressurize, prompt, induce, encourage, urge, inspire
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    2. 1.2Deliberately make (someone) annoyed or angry.
      ‘Rachel refused to be provoked’
      • ‘But he claimed he was provoked when the man threw an aerosol can at the group and then hit one of his friends with an 18 in rounders bat.’
      • ‘She could get very dangerous when she was provoked and irritated, and the teenagers knew that.’
      • ‘I am easily provoked, and rather vicious when my toe is stepped on, but I'm quick to cool down and fast to reasoning.’
      • ‘Nathan was looking at her with a wild expression, the kind he got whenever she had deliberately provoked him.’
      • ‘No longer did she feel like his blue eyes were challenging or provoking her.’
      • ‘So we don't want to do anything to provoke him or to incite the violence we're trying to prevent.’
      • ‘I couldn't see why anyone would wish to provoke me to the point of anger over not having a significant other.’
      • ‘She provoked me, she taunted me, she said, I'm never going back to you, all those sorts of things.’
      • ‘Sometimes applicants are deliberately provoked to see how they handle themselves.’
      • ‘It is therefore forbidden to provoke a person, thereby causing him to sin in anger, even though it is not certain that he will do so.’
      • ‘The same thing was continually provoking me: the manner in which men treated women.’
      • ‘Men of all ages simply kept their distance, though sometimes every now and then one would come and try to anger and provoke her.’
      • ‘And Stine just kept right on provoking him with taunts and derision.’
      • ‘The warning about conduct was meant to stop people deliberately provoking him.’
      • ‘He had deliberately provoked her, coaxed her into giving him the painful death he had coveted.’
      • ‘He could see tears in her eyes, and it made him angry that Jeff was provoking her.’
      • ‘She tried not show that Linda's slap had provoked her, as she fought an urge to rub her sore cheek.’
      • ‘The police car backed off for safety reasons and to avoid provoking the truck's driver, RCMP said in a news release.’
      • ‘Many blame him for provoking conservative voters and contributing to John Kerry's defeat in the presidential election.’
      • ‘Immediately, he begins relentlessly provoking the guards, acting from both the need to generate a story he can sell and his own antagonism towards authority.’
      annoying, irritating, exasperating, infuriating, provocative, maddening, goading, vexing, galling, affronting, insulting, offensive
      inflaming, inflammatory, incendiary, controversial
      aggravating, in-your-face
      instigative, agitative
      annoy, make angry, anger, incense, enrage, send into a rage, irritate, infuriate, exasperate, exacerbate, madden, pique, nettle, get a rise out of, take a rise out of, bother, upset, agitate, vex, irk, gall, get someone's back up, put someone's back up, get on someone's nerves, ruffle, ruffle someone's feathers, make someone's hackles rise, raise someone's hackles, make someone's blood boil, rub up the wrong way, put someone out
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Late Middle English (also in the sense ‘invoke, summon’): from Old French provoquer, from Latin provocare challenge, from pro- forth + vocare to call.