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Borrowed from Middle French provocatif, and its source, Late Latin provocativus, from Latin provocare.



provocative (comparative more provocative, superlative most provocative)

  1. Serving or tending to elicit a strong, often negative sentiment in another person; exasperating.
  2. Serving or tending to excite, stimulate or arouse sexual interest; sexy.
  3. Provoking or triggering any response.
    • 1897, Richard Marsh, The Beetle:
      And the ‘wailing noise,’ which had induced the prosaic, indurated London cabman to get twice off his box to see what was the matter, what anguish had been provocative of that?

Related terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



provocative (plural provocatives)

  1. (obsolete) Something that provokes an appetite, especially a sexual appetite; an aphrodisiac. [from 15th c.]
    • 1723, Charles Walker, Memoirs of the Life of Sally Salisbury:
      She used by way of Provocative, to read the wanton Verses of her Paramour in the day time [...].
    • 1920, Edward Carpenter, Pagan and Christian Creeds, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., page 165:
      [A]nd that one great and all-important occasion and provocative of these beliefs was actually the rise of self-consciousness — that is, the coming of the mind to a more or less distinct awareness of itself and of its own operation, and the consequent development and growth of Individualism, and of the Self-centred attitude in human thought and action.




  1. vocative masculine singular of prōvocātīvus