The word "troll" (in the Internet-related sense) usually means someone who doesn't care about the issues they talk about, but just wants to anger and/or hurt as many people as they can (usually for a perverse sense of power). Now, I have come across many people (online and in person) who have an actual point of view that they are advocating, but who express it in a deliberately abrasive way. Like a troll, they try to hurt and anger people they disagree with, but unlike a troll, they're not trying to hurt anyone they do agree with. Is there a word or term for this?

An example would be a conservative who is trying to hurt, anger, and insult liberals, but not conservatives; or a liberal who is trying to hurt, anger and insult conservatives, but not liberals.

  • 2
    It sounds like a politician.
    – user140086
    Dec 24, 2015 at 18:05
  • I know of no separate word for this in internet parlance, but if you are looking for near-synonyms for troll, they include etin, thurs, and jotun. Dec 24, 2015 at 18:06
  • 2
    It's called a troll.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 24, 2015 at 18:18
  • Did you mean ADVOCATING or AVOCATING? They are coincidentally words of completely opposite meanings. Advocate = to draw affinity towards. AVOCATE = to shift away from. Dec 25, 2015 at 8:16
  • 1
    I'm with @HotLicks -- having a POV doesn't mean they're not a troll. It's like you're trying to say that a sociopath can't take sides, and that's just not true.
    – stevesliva
    Dec 26, 2015 at 5:05

7 Answers 7


The late Christopher Hitchens was a primary example of a gadfly:

2 : gadfly, n.: a usually purposely annoying or provoking person; especially : one who stimulates or provokes to activity and especially to the analysis and defense of ideas by persistent criticism especially of an irritating pointed kind

Or, more formally (as noted in the obituary at the link), a polemicist:

A person who engages in controversial debate


I think of the word "blowhard." Here is the Wiktionary definition:

(derogatory) A person who talks too much or too loudly, especially in a boastful or self-important manner.

There is also "zealot." Wiktionary Definition:

One who is zealous, one who is full of zeal for his own specific beliefs or objectives, usually in the negative sense of being too passionate; a fanatic

Or "firebrand." Wiktionary definition:

An argumentative troublemaker or revolutionary; one who agitates against the current situation.

Each of the three words I've provided have a negative connotation; they are not compliments.


A dogmatist is someone who "express[es] personal opinions or beliefs as if they are certainly correct and cannot be doubted" (Merriam-Webster), so that sort of person would by definition be staunchly dismissive of any opposing views.

  • Good suggestions. I'm looking for something that suggests the deliberate, unrestrained offensiveness, the pleasure in hurting people's feelings, of a "troll," except that they limit their target to the "other side."
    – user24353
    Dec 25, 2015 at 3:46

Perhaps jesuit (noun) or jesuitical (adjective)

Definition: a person given to subtle and equivocating arguments; a casuist; a crafty, intriguing person; some one practicing jesuitism, i.e. cunning or deceit, hypocrisy, prevarication, deceptive practices to effect a purpose.


Very early, owing in part to English Protestant propagandists, the word “Jesuitical” came to characterize a form of argument designed less to seek the truth than to make a case, a form of argument that was aggressive and clever but perhaps not always sincere - indeed, one that was at times cunningly equivocal or downright deceitful. Aside from pure anti-Jesuit animus, this nuance probably arose from the work of some 17th-century Jesuit theologians who imperfectly employed a method known as “casuistry” in resolving questions of moral theology - an approach that gave the broadest possible leeway to individual behavior. This form of justification, which became known as “laxism,” may explain why Jesuit priests were the confessors of choice among Europe’s Catholic aristocracy. (source:dailycon.wordpress.com)



polemical: of, relating to, or involving strongly critical, controversial, or disputatious writing or speech. "a polemical essay"



Any vigorous, aggressive movement for the defense or advancement of an idea, cause, etc.


Rather than use a noun, I'd suggest provocative or abrasive, with "deliberately" thrown in if you really want to make the point.

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