agent provocateur

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Borrowed from French agent provocateur (literally provocative agent).



agent provocateur (plural agents provocateurs)

  1. A person who secretly disrupts a group's activities from within the group, particularly by encouraging or committing illegal acts to discredit the group or expose them to prosecution; an instigator, troublemaker.
    • 1926, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Land of Mist[1]:
      "This agent-provocateur business is quite foreign to British justice."
    • 1938, George Orwell [pseudonym; Eric Arthur Blair], chapter 9, in Homage to Catalonia[2], London: Secker & Warburg:
      I was told afterwards—quite possibly it was true—that agents provocateurs were touching off masses of explosive in order to increase the general noise and panic.
    • 1990, Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game, Folio Society, published 2010, page 50:
      Suspecting that the man was an agent provocateur sent by the Prince, Pottinger told him that regrettably he had neither the knowledge nor the authority to instruct him in this or any other religion.
    • 2012 March 25, Nadine El-Enany, The Guardian:
      The criminalisation of protest has been aided by the director of public prosecution's recent guidelines on prosecuting protesters, which fail to account for the role of the police in prompting violence at demonstrations through tactics such as kettling, the use of batons, agents provocateurs and undercover policing.


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agent provocateur m (plural agents provocateurs, feminine agente provocatrice)

  1. agent provocateur; instigator, troublemaker