Definition of provocation in US English:



  • 1Action or speech that makes someone annoyed or angry, especially deliberately.

    ‘you should remain calm and not respond to provocation’
    ‘he burst into tears at the slightest provocation’
    • ‘As they wait for assistance to have the man taken into custody, they studiously ignored taunts and provocations and remained astonishingly polite throughout.’
    • ‘In his radical past, Livingstone may have made a warning about the police using provocations staged by anarchists to step up repressive acts.’
    • ‘That gave the police the pretext to use provocations and attack both protesters and local youth.’
    • ‘Certain people were responsible for stopping conflicts, and there were ways to deal with provocations and ways to make peace.’
    • ‘As in life, the provocations to feeling or to action do not occur in step with the conscious thoughts of the characters.’
    • ‘Now, under a variety of provocations, mutiny is brewing.’
    • ‘At the time, he had imposed certain restrictions on himself and would not be induced to react, even once, to their provocations.’
    • ‘Even where not deeply convincing, its shortcomings were provocations to think deeply.’
    • ‘Well, I think that obviously he controls his security forces and they need to do more to try to make sure that the provocations don't take place.’
    • ‘In 2003, the military, even under government control, staged a series of provocations that undermined the peace talks.’
    • ‘The insurgents take advantage of darkness to conduct provocations during armistices or when negotiations are underway.’
    • ‘Particularly in the eighteenth century lexicons were infinitely lively, full of satire, poetry and provocations.’
    • ‘These provocations became the pretext for police attacks on peaceful demonstrators.’
    • ‘Since then despite many provocations and setbacks the cessation has endured.’
    • ‘Every one of the major political parties is capable of mobilising gangs to create deliberate provocations in rival strongholds in order to disrupt voting.’
    • ‘His provocations were always deliberately intended to challenge his readers as well as the establishment.’
    • ‘Whatever the reasons, whatever the provocations, this is where hatred gets us - innocent people murdered as they go about their ordinary business.’
    • ‘It gives rise to verbal provocations such as yelling and cursing, excessive honking of the horn, rude or obscene gestures and threats.’
    • ‘State forces were mobilized against this growing movement through open police provocations, frame-ups and murders.’
    • ‘Burnley has become the third northern town to be hit by riots sparked by racist attacks and police provocations in the last month, following Oldham and Leeds.’
    goading, prodding, egging on, incitement, rousing, stirring, stimulation, prompting, inducement, encouragement, urging, inspiration, stimulus, pressure
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Law Action or speech held to be likely to prompt physical retaliation.
      ‘the assault had taken place under provocation’
      • ‘D was convicted of murder having raised both the defences of provocation and diminished responsibility.’
      • ‘In some cases defendants run the two qualified defences of provocation and diminished responsibility in tandem.’
      • ‘As the judge reminded the jury, in interview Bodrul denied that he was acting in self - defence and he said that he was not acting under provocation.’
      • ‘Moore and Girling denied murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter under provocation.’
      • ‘Alternatively the defence say she may have acted under provocation of a type which reduces murder to manslaughter in law.’
      goading, prodding, egging on, incitement, rousing, stirring, stimulation, prompting, inducement, encouragement, urging, inspiration, stimulus, pressure
      View synonyms
  • 2Medicine
    Testing to elicit a particular response or reflex.

    ‘twenty patients had a high increase of serum gastrin after provocation with secretin’
    • ‘Efficacy was assessed with a nasal provocation test using the allergen at a concentration previously demonstrated to elicit symptoms in each patient.’
    • ‘So far, we have encountered only two patients who have HCM and vasospastic angina with total occlusion during the acetylcholine provocation test.’
    • ‘Several investigators have carried out inhalation provocation tests using dropping extracts or bird sera.’
    • ‘Baseline sensitivity to grass pollen as measured by the conjunctival provocation test did not differ.’
    • ‘This study has validated the inhalation provocation test for the diagnosis of chronic BFL.’


Late Middle English: from Old French, from Latin provocatio(n-), from the verb provocare (see provoke).