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The definition of an internet troll:

In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people,1 by posting inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog), either accidentally[3][4] or with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[5] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[6]

This sense of the word troll and its associated verb trolling are associated with Internet discourse, but have been used more widely. Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment. For example, mass media has used troll to describe "a person who defaces Internet tribute sites with the aim of causing grief to families."[7][8] Wikipedia

What is the equivalent for a person who does this type of thing in real life (non-cyber) troll?

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mischief-maker? yourdictionary.com/mischief-maker –  skymningen Oct 30 '13 at 9:38
    
I think that provocateur (which bib mentions in an answer below) comes closest in sense to "offline troll." Another possibility is controversialist. –  Sven Yargs Oct 30 '13 at 19:57

4 Answers 4

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Someone who is an instigator or trouble maker. Often the one who starts & passes on all gossip. An extreme example of someone outside of the internet who say goes "trolling" around, is someone who goes looking around for one thing or another. The phrase has been used many times to refer to older men who "troll around" or look around like they are stalking in a predatory fashion for young men or women to attempt to lure them. The term "Troll" coming from the concept that younger individuals consider the older, generally much older individuals, creepy & repulsive like a troll or ogre one would see in a fairy tale.

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A troll is an instigator (among other things!), but I think troll has simply become the go-to word for online troublemaking. Instigator it is. Trolls and instigators are both looking for a reaction. –  geoO May 8 at 15:44

There are a number of possibilities, among which are

  • mischief-maker
  • agitator
  • provoker
  • provocateur
  • insitgator
  • fomenter
  • spoiler
  • spoilsport
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There are several different words that I might use to describe someone behaving like an Internet troll, depending on the specific behavior.

If the person is merely being annoying or mildly irritating, I would probably call them obnoxious or just plain rude.

Internet trolls often intentionally create conflict for their own amusement. I would call this being contentious, argumentative, or possibly contrarian (objecting to an idea solely because it came from someone else and not from him/her).

In many cases, Internet trolls will derail a discussion with personal attacks, criticizing a person rather than his or her viewpoint. I might say this person is being mean or derogatory, or in more extreme cases, hateful or vile. This sort of person might also be making comments that are racist, homophobic, or misogynistic (insulting to women).

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When speaking informally, consider the word bully. This is a broad term, but certainly encompasses one who causes distress in innocent parties for their own satisfaction.

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protected by tchrist Dec 13 '14 at 17:50

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