What is the word for provoking some one in a good way to do something good? My research shows provoke is means to induce anger in a person to do something. I have found "inspired" but it doesnt give the same provocative :) effect.



20 Answers 20


Inspire and encourage are clearly positive, but not as strong.

Provoke is generally negative as you say, though if used of a good thing then it could work well, precisely because it would be a use that is unusual—whether it's so unusual to jar or just unusual enough to stand out well can't be judged out of context, and there would likely be some disagreement if we did see the full sentence.

Spur is perhaps a good choice. Edit: some people are objecting to spur, they've a fair point, but I hope none of them ever ride horses ;)

Incite, foster, hearten, embolden, induce, stimulate, persuade, coax, instigate, and urge are all words that overlap enough that they might suit your purpose but not so much that they necessarily would.

Edit: Stir works in some cases too, and while it's a bit old-fashioned in this sense, I personally like it.

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    I like spur, but in some cases, to merely prompt or stir may suffice.
    – choster
    Feb 7 '14 at 20:12
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    +1 I agree with provoke being used in a way that isn't necessarily negative. For instance by itself provoke is associated to be negative, but when I've heard the phrase "thought provoking" it doesn't have the same negativity, for me anyways. Feb 7 '14 at 20:21
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    Is spur not somewhat negative as well? As in it takes someone poking you with a wheel of sharp spikes to get you to do whatever it is they want you to do? ('prod' would be similar too)
    – frozenkoi
    Feb 7 '14 at 21:38
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    I find your answer satisfying and on the target but i kind of agree with frozenkoi. Spur is what you do to a horse and it is actually forcefull imo. So spurring a person foesnt sound really polite but in absence of a better word i think its the best option. I have also come across the word "Fillip". What do you guys think about that? Feb 8 '14 at 10:05
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    On its own, I think of stir in a more negative sense (stir up trouble, for example). That said, any of these (including provoke, really) could be used positively in the right context.
    – J.R.
    Feb 8 '14 at 11:44

"arouse" comes to mind also. Though, be careful when using, it can be too positive sometimes.

  • +1, despite the fact that it can also have a sexual connotation. Feb 7 '14 at 19:47
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    @KyleStrand That's what was meant by "too positive sometimes." :)
    – Josh
    Feb 7 '14 at 21:34
  • I @SoylentGreen I guess you're right, sex is pretty positive! Feb 7 '14 at 21:36
  • One case in point, the NIV 2011 translation of the Bible swapped out provoked for aroused, although each instance was specifically in reference to anger.
    – Brad Koch
    Feb 7 '14 at 22:25

Words that come to mind when thinking of "provoking" but with a positive connotation would be:

  • motivating

  • prompting

  • driving

  • encouraging

  • incentivizing


How about challenge? To challenge someone to to something. It seems to me it fits the bill for positive provocation.


How about the the word "rouse"?

rouse: to kindle to intensity : excite, inflame


  • How about kindle itself?
    – AndreKR
    Feb 8 '14 at 22:04

Galvanize sounds like the word you are looking for. Galvanize 1. (verb) to shock or excite (someone), typically into taking action.

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    Alternately in the "terms inspired by science" category, I'd suggest catalyze as a bit more mainstream. Feb 9 '14 at 1:41

Stimulate implies an action by one person upon an other, just as does provoke.


I actually like "provoke" in that context, but if you really need something different, you might try spur

EDIT, to show that spur is frequently used in a positive sense.

A google search for spur to success brings up headlines like these:

  • Did the JFK Assassination Spur the Success of the Beatles?
  • Steelers notebook: Johnson helps spur success in red zone
  • Accelerating Startup Success to Spur Economic Growth
  • Can the Lumia 2520 Spur Nokia and Microsoft to Success?
  • Coaches Spur Advisers To Hit Bigger, Better Success
  • I just realized that Jon Hanna included "spur" in an earlier answer.
    – TecBrat
    Feb 7 '14 at 20:37
  • The question asked for positive words of encouragement. Spur is hardly positive in most contexts. Spurs look cool, but no one wants a goad in the ribs with spurs. Feb 8 '14 at 18:12
  • @FeralOink Please see my edit.
    – TecBrat
    Feb 8 '14 at 20:29
  • They are somewhat masculine examples e.g. Pittsburgh Steelers, sports team coaches, tech start-up's (which shouldn't be gender-specific, but generally are), but I'm not complaining. I am a woman, and wouldn't find spur to be a word of positive encouragement. Most prose is not gender-specific though, so spur is probably just fine in a general sense. It is much better than "stimulate", "lure" or "arouse"! Feb 9 '14 at 19:33

I've seen the word exhort before. I am not sure what its connotations are. In the linked webpage it says it has a positive connotation.


I'd go for "spark" - it clearly has positive connotations (to me at least)

These bright students have sparked her enthusiasm for teaching.

The arrival of the piano player really sparked the party. (from here)


Provoke can have negative connotations, but it denotes: "stimulate or give rise to (a reaction or emotion, typically a strong or unwelcome one) in someone."

So I would not rule out your original inclination, if based on the context you make clear that it is positive reactions or emotions you are attempting to arouse.


Instead of provoke, which may have negative connotations, such as goading or irritating, consider pique.

Attending the lecture series piqued my interest in further study.

That is a positive usage of pique, similar to provoke in its more positive form of provocative. Similarly, there is a negative form of pique, "a fit of pique" e.g. "Gaddafi left enriched uranium on the runway in 'fit of pique' after he felt snubbed during U.S. visit". As long as you use pique as a word, not part of a phrase, there will be no confusion.


It's a little uncommon, but you could also use impel. I believe this has a neutral connotation, so it might not be what you want.


I'm surprised invoke hasn't already been mentioned.

It is very similar without the negative connotations.

e.g. He gave a passionate speech that invoked a positive attitude amongst the attendees.

Compel could also be suitable for your requirements.


I think you're looking for the word "pay"...i.e. Could you do this for me, I'll pay you this much. Or give you this in exchange.

Otherwise it seems like you're asking someone to do something they don't want to do, for no reason? Unless you mean "blackmail", "slavery", "brainwash" ??

If you're strong enough in some area, you can use "threaten" (induce fear of reprisal). For instance if you're a nation-state, weapons, imprisonment, etc.

You can take away things someone might have, if you can control that. Privacy, freedom, food, water, shelter, entertainment.

  • Who are you? It makes me feel happy to read this. It is ethical and fair and honest and true and just so good in every way. Feb 8 '14 at 18:08

ermanen's answer above provoked me to laughter. The word appears to me to be negative or positive only according to context.

But to the point: I should nudge you in the right direction. ;)


stimulate could be good enough if it is used in biological sense.


There was a popular acronym, AIDMA used among ad men when I was still in the frontline of business, which represents for Attention→Interest→Demand→Motivate→Action.

In other words, AIDMA illustrates the process of how the advertisement works, and how the massage lets people take their actions (good for the advertiser).

Although I’m not sure of if this word is still in use in advertising world, I would like to suggest “Motivate” as the word you’re looking for. "Encourage" (to do sth) could be another alternative.


"evoke" and "elicit" ...or perhaps even "enthuse"

  • 1
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    – choster
    Feb 8 '14 at 5:25

Tiger mother (BrEng) or tiger moms (AmEng) are said to push and drive their children towards academic excellence.

In terms of academic achievement, British Chinese children are the most successful ethnic group in this country, and behind each success story you will usually find a formidable Tiger Mother. Play by her rule book, and you get hours of homework and music practice, strict discipline, and not too much time for play. But you are also more likely to get A grades.

'A Michigan State University scholar has refuted tiger mother philosophy that parents should drive their children to succeed even at the expense of the kids' happiness.'

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