What to call someone who stirs the pot? Breeds controversy? Revels in chaos?

Is there a word for someone who purposefully tries to make his environment very unpleasant and dangerous for everyone? And also thrives in or takes great pleasure from creating that kind of environment?

Vortrax saw Penelope writing a valentine's day card to her crush, who he knows. He promised to deliver it to him for her. Then he secretly rewrote it in the distinctive handwriting of one of Penelope's best friends before delivering it.
Vortrax is a(n) ___________

Term for a person trying to create unnecessary controversy isn't a dupe because I am trying to find a word for someone who loves being surrounded by misfortune and unhappiness, who loves to cause the people around them to be vulnerable; that's not the same thing as a drama queen or nitpicker, which is what the other question is asking for.


6 Answers 6


I think troll would be a good candidate. Although it's usually used in the context of the internet, I think it can also be used in real life.

Wiktionary defines troll as follows:

  1. (Internet slang, now also used outside of internet) A person who posts or says inflammatory, insincere, digressive, extraneous, or off-topic messages to provoke others on the Internet for their own personal amusement or to manipulate others' perception. [from late 20th c.]

(Boldface mine.)

And the first of the three examples uses the term outside of the internet:

2014 December 19, “Friday 2 January's best TV”, in The Guardian‎: Katie Hopkins: My Fat Story 9pm, TLC. The professional troll and one-time Apprentice stirrer piles on the pounds in order to shed them in this two-part doc, which feels at times like an overly long This Morning item.


In this particular context, you could call Vortrax a snake. Merriam-Webster defines it as:

a worthless or treacherous fellow


The best word for this is a Spoiler. In any dictionary this comes up as "One who spoils". That is to say spoils, or ruins things of other people for their own pleasure or gain, most often mental. This applies to politics: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spoiler.

Also romantic or business relationships. When one is making trouble on the schoolyard they are Spoiling for a fight, that is, provoking an altercation or an argument. There is also a trouble maker with their own motivations. That is two words. Spoiler is the best of only one, unless you'd like to start something about it.


He's a schemer or an intriguer.

Schemer [Wiktionary]: One who plots or schemes.

And "to plot" means [Wiktionary] to conceive (a crime, misdeed etc).

To intrigue [Wiktionary]: To conceive or carry out a secret plan intended to harm; to form a plot or scheme.

And an intriguer is someone who intrigues.

If you click through the various entries on Wiktionary, to plot, to scheme, plot, scheme, intrigue, etc. are mostly defined in terms of each other.


That person could be called an agitator:

a person who stirs up others in order to upset the status quo and further a political, social, or other cause: The boss said he would fire any union agitators.


Said cause in your case being one of self-interest.


This is an instigator. Especially in classroom situations, this is the word used by educators and behavioral analysts for a kid who stirs the pot.

a person who causes something to happen, especially something bad:

The instigators of the disturbance have not yet been identified.

I found this quote from Fisher and Sharpe's “The Players”, in The Art of Managing Everyday Conflict: Understanding Emotions and Power Struggles gives a spot on example of this usage very much like the situation you describe. The instigator does revel in it.

The instigator has the power to start the conflict. The person instigating the conflict always seeks power in some form. That is why they are starting the fight. […] An example of this is a child who tells two different kids that they are saying things about each other. This then starts a fight between the two kids, and the instigator gets to watch the fireworks. The instigator likes to feel the power of seeing the other two kids fight. In some cases, the instigator may want to redirect attention away from him- or herself and onto someone else.

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