Top 23 Slang For Provoke – Meaning & Usage

When it comes to getting a rise out of someone, having the right words at your disposal can make all the difference. Our team has scoured the depths of slang to bring you the most effective and impactful terms for provocation. Whether you’re looking to rile up a friend or engage in some friendly banter, this list is sure to arm you with the perfect arsenal of words to stir things up. Get ready to take your verbal jousting to the next level with our curated selection of slang for provoke.

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1. Trigger

To trigger means to incite or provoke a strong emotional response in someone. It often refers to saying or doing something that causes someone to become upset, angry, or offended.

  • For example, “His comment about her weight triggered her and she stormed out of the room.”
  • In a heated argument, someone might say, “Don’t trigger me with your insensitive remarks.”
  • A social media post might warn, “Warning: This content may trigger those with anxiety or PTSD.”

2. Rile up

To rile up means to agitate or provoke someone by stirring up their emotions or causing them to become angry or upset.

  • For instance, “His constant teasing about her appearance really riled her up.”
  • In a sports game, a player might intentionally try to rile up their opponent by trash-talking or provoking them.
  • A parent might say, “Stop trying to rile up your siblings and behave.”

3. Egg on

To egg on means to encourage or provoke someone to do something, often something they might not otherwise do.

  • For example, “His friends egged him on to jump off the bridge into the river.”
  • In a prank, someone might say, “Let’s egg on our friend to ask out their crush.”
  • A group of friends might egg each other on to take risks or try new experiences.

4. Push buttons

To push someone’s buttons means to intentionally provoke or irritate them by saying or doing things that you know will upset or annoy them.

  • For instance, “Her brother knows exactly how to push her buttons and make her lose her temper.”
  • In a tense situation, someone might say, “Don’t push my buttons or I’ll snap.”
  • A coworker might complain, “She’s always trying to push my buttons and get a reaction out of me.”

5. Rub the wrong way

To rub someone the wrong way means to annoy or provoke them by doing or saying something that they find irritating or offensive.

  • For example, “His arrogant attitude really rubs me the wrong way.”
  • In a group setting, someone might say, “Her constant interruptions rub everyone the wrong way.”
  • A roommate might complain, “Leaving dirty dishes in the sink always rubs me the wrong way.”

6. Get under someone’s skin

This phrase is used to describe behavior or actions that bother or irritate someone to the point of frustration or anger. It suggests that the person’s actions or words are deeply affecting the other person.

  • For example, “His constant criticism really gets under my skin.”
  • Someone might say, “She knows exactly how to get under my skin and push my buttons.”
  • In a heated argument, one person might accuse the other of intentionally trying to get under their skin.
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7. Piss off

This is a more vulgar slang term used to describe behavior or actions that greatly irritate or anger someone. It implies that the person’s actions are offensive or disrespectful.

  • For instance, “His rude comments really pissed me off.”
  • In a heated argument, one person might yell, “Just piss off and leave me alone!”
  • Someone might say, “I don’t want to piss off my boss by being late for work.”

8. Prodding

This term refers to the act of persistently questioning or pushing someone’s buttons in order to provoke a reaction or response. It suggests a deliberate attempt to elicit a specific reaction from the person.

  • For example, “Stop prodding me with all these personal questions.”
  • In a discussion, one person might accuse another of prodding them for information.
  • A parent might say, “I had to do some prodding to get my teenager to open up about their problems.”

9. Taunt

To taunt someone means to mock or provoke them with insulting or derisive remarks. It often involves trying to get a rise out of the person or provoke them into reacting.

  • For instance, “He couldn’t resist taunting his opponent after scoring the winning goal.”
  • In a heated argument, one person might taunt the other by saying, “You’re just jealous of my success.”
  • A bully might taunt their victim by making fun of their appearance.

10. Needle

To needle someone means to irritate or provoke them with teasing or mocking remarks. It suggests a deliberate attempt to annoy or get a reaction from the person.

  • For example, “He loves to needle his siblings by making fun of their mistakes.”
  • In a friendly banter, one person might needle another by saying, “You’re just jealous of my amazing cooking skills.”
  • A coworker might needle their colleague by teasing them about their messy desk.

11. Incite

To incite means to deliberately provoke or stimulate strong feelings or actions, often with the intention of causing trouble or unrest.

  • For example, a political activist might incite a crowd to protest against a certain policy.
  • A social media post that criticizes a particular group might incite heated arguments in the comments.
  • A provocative statement made during a debate can incite strong reactions from the audience.
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12. Infuriate

To infuriate means to make someone extremely angry or enraged.

  • For instance, if someone cuts in line, it can infuriate the people who have been waiting patiently.
  • A person might be infuriated by a rude or disrespectful comment directed towards them.
  • A driver who repeatedly honks their horn in traffic can infuriate other drivers.

13. Rankle

Rankle means to cause persistent annoyance or resentment, often over a long period of time.

  • For example, a person’s insensitive remarks can rankle someone for years.
  • Unresolved conflicts between family members can rankle and create tension during family gatherings.
  • A decision made by a boss that negatively affects employees can rankle the entire workforce.

14. Hassle

Hassle refers to an annoying or troublesome situation or an action that causes inconvenience or difficulty.

  • For instance, dealing with customer service can be a hassle when trying to resolve an issue.
  • A person might say, “I don’t want to go to that store, it’s always such a hassle finding a parking spot.”
  • Completing paperwork and dealing with bureaucracy can be a hassle.

15. Tease

To tease means to provoke or make fun of someone in a playful or lighthearted manner.

  • For example, siblings might tease each other about their embarrassing childhood photos.
  • Friends might tease someone about a funny mistake they made.
  • A person might say, “Don’t take it seriously, I’m just teasing!” when their joke is misunderstood.

16. Flick someone’s switch

To intentionally provoke or irritate someone, often by saying or doing something that you know will upset them. This phrase implies that you are “flicking a switch” to elicit a reaction from the person.

  • For example, “He knows how to flick her switch by bringing up her ex-boyfriend.”
  • In a heated argument, one person might say, “Don’t flick my switch or you’ll regret it.”
  • A sibling might tease their brother by saying, “I know how to flick your switch and make you lose your temper.”

17. Set off

To cause someone to become angry or upset, often unintentionally. This phrase suggests that something has been “set off” in the person’s emotions or reactions.

  • For instance, “Her comment about his weight set him off and he stormed out of the room.”
  • In a discussion about sensitive topics, one might say, “Be careful with your words, you don’t want to set off any arguments.”
  • A parent might warn their child, “If you keep teasing your sister, you’re going to set her off.”

18. Light a fire under

To inspire or push someone to take action or move quickly. This phrase implies that you are “lighting a fire” under them to get them moving or motivated.

  • For example, “The coach’s pep talk before the game really lit a fire under the team.”
  • In a workplace setting, a manager might say, “I need to light a fire under my employees to meet the deadline.”
  • A friend might encourage another by saying, “Come on, let’s go for a run and light a fire under ourselves!”

19. Rub salt in the wound

To make a difficult or painful situation even worse by adding insult to injury. This phrase suggests that you are intensifying someone’s emotional pain or distress.

  • For instance, “After losing the game, the opposing team’s celebration felt like rubbing salt in the wound.”
  • In a breakup, one person might say, “I can’t believe you’re already dating someone else. That’s just rubbing salt in the wound.”
  • A coworker might accidentally make a situation worse by saying, “You didn’t get the promotion? Ouch, that’s rubbing salt in the wound.”

20. Tweak someone’s nose

To intentionally provoke, annoy, or irritate someone. This phrase suggests that you are metaphorically “tweaking” or irritating someone’s nose, which can be seen as a playful or mischievous action.

  • For example, “He loves to tweak his sister’s nose by pretending to eat her favorite snack.”
  • In a friendly argument, one person might say, “You’re just trying to tweak my nose and get a reaction.”
  • A classmate might tease their friend by saying, “I know how to tweak your nose and make you laugh.”

21. Tantalize

To provoke or tease someone by offering something desirable but keeping it out of reach. Tantalizing someone can create a sense of anticipation or frustration.

  • For example, a restaurant might tantalize customers with a picture of a mouthwatering dish on their menu.
  • A person might say, “He tantalized me with hints about a surprise party.”
  • In a romantic context, someone might say, “She tantalized him with a flirtatious smile.”

22. Wind someone up

To deliberately provoke or irritate someone, often by saying or doing something that upsets them. Winding someone up can be done playfully or with the intention of getting a reaction.

  • For instance, a sibling might wind up their brother by hiding his favorite toy.
  • Someone might say, “Don’t wind him up, he’s already in a bad mood.”
  • In a joking context, a person might say, “I couldn’t resist winding her up about her favorite sports team losing.”

23. Work someone up

To intentionally provoke or upset someone, often by discussing a sensitive topic or bringing up past grievances. Working someone up can lead to emotional reactions and heightened tension.

  • For example, a person might work up their friend by bringing up a controversial political issue.
  • Someone might say, “He always tries to work me up by criticizing my work.”
  • In a heated argument, one person might accuse the other of trying to work them up.
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