Verb > Instigate

Verb – Instigate

To instigate something–usually something bad–is to cause it or to stir it up, often by persuading people or by firing up their emotions.

IN stih gate

Part of speech:
Verb, the transitive kind: people and their actions instigate things.

Other forms:
Instigated, instigating, instigation.

The adjective is “instigative.” (Say it “IN stih gay tiv.”)

And the people who instigate things are usually called instigators, but they can also be called instigants.

If you’re feeling saucy, you can call a female instigator an “instigatrix.” Here’s The Dublin Review: “Lady Macbeth, the instigatrix of the murder.” That’d be a cool name for a sly female villain, right? The Instigatrix.

How to use it:
Pick this harsh, formal, commonly used word to talk about people, actions, decisions, and statements that instigate things–usually bad things, like conflicts, arguments, fights, attacks, violence, hatred, rebellion, etc.

Sometimes we’ll say “they instigated them to do something,” as in “They instigated the commoners to arm themselves against the government.” And sometimes we’ll say “they instigated them to that action,” as in “They instigated the commoners to a rebellion.”

“[Harvard professor Susan Benesch] coined the term ‘dangerous speech’ – meaning rhetoric that is used to turn one group of people violently against another – after years of studying speech used to instigate atrocities like the Holocaust.”
— Lauren Aratani, The Guardian, 19 June 2019

“He is ‘pretty satisfied’ with his trip to the U.S. to instigate World War III. ‘All in all, I think I accomplished my goal of pushing humanity toward the brink of complete and utter annihilation.'”
— The Onion, 28 September 2012