So there is a term or phrase I'm looking to use. I need assistance in finding it.

The definition I would have in mind, would be: someone who will do, word, or say things, or behave in a certain way to see if anything happens. Just to find out if people would react. Not in a instigating manner or with a narcissistic tone, but more of a neutral way. For either their own entertainment or as if it's a social experiment. Maybe, wording a post with specific vocabulary that gives it a different tone, to see if anyone notices something about it. Again, not in the way of a narcissistic person who may provoke people to have a negative or some sort of beneficial reaction, not negative.

Edit: I should've added I'm looking for more of an adverb. Thanks greats answers this far.

  • 3
    Provoking or provocative seems exactly right here: it's doing something to get a reaction. Why is it not right?
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jun 29 at 14:26
  • 1
    Um, could be evoke. Commented Jun 30 at 1:35
  • Poke alone might do it.
    – Xanne
    Commented Jun 30 at 3:36
  • (1) Single-word requests need to prove a sample sentence with a blank that illustrates how it will be used. (2) Do you mean you are now looking for an adverb to modify the verb "provoke"? The title to your question clearly requests a verb: "A word that means to elicit..."
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Jun 30 at 22:46

9 Answers 9


"Suscitate", although a rare word now, seems to me to be perfect in this context.

(SOED) suscitate Now rare. 1. Stir up, excite; raise (a person) out of inactivity.

In the following examples, the subject of "suscitate" is not a person, but I believe that it can be a person as well without changing the meaning of the verb.


To nudge is much more subtle than provoke. It can be done in a neutral fashion (to elicit any response) or in a way that is directed towards a specific response, behavior or outcome.

nudge (v.)

To encourage or persuade someone to do something in a way that is gentle rather than forceful or direct:

He cleverly nudges us toward the conclusion he himself has reached.

Transitive. figurative. To give a reminder to; to coax, encourage, or steer gently or by degrees in a desired direction. Also occasionally intransitive with at.

He talked at length to his father who tried to nudge him into the ministry, but as yet he was too undecided to plump for anything so definite.
1987 W. Raeper, George MacDonald v. 55
[OED online]

Nudging is a practice that uses tweaks in the way choices are presented to people to steer behavior, such as changing decision defaults, asking people to precommit to an action, or making choices more salient.
Alain Samson; "On Your Best Behavior: How to Nudge Ethically" at behavioraleconomics.com

In our experiences with quick images, asking students, "How many dots did you see?" can nudge them to use a counting-all strategy because they interpret the question as hinting toward a strategy (i.e., "how many" means I should count).
Antonia Cameron at al,; Early Childhood Math Routines (2023)

Oliver (2013) considers nudging to be a nuanced approach to promoting of healthy eating, aiming to elicit voluntary changes towards desired behavior withing the given institutional conditions of choice.
Radek Kovács and ‎František Ochrana; Nudging towards Health (2023)

We know that learners are lazy and leave things to the last minute so why not nudge them into correcting that behaviour.
Donald Clark ; Artificial Intelligence for Learning (2020)

Even in areas like anti-smoking campaigns, nudging, while effective, has worked alongside high taxation and banning smoking in the workplace and public buildings and spaces.
Keith Dowding; It's the Government, Stupid (2020)


spark a response

She will do, behave, write, or say things to spark a response.

The spike in spending by environmental activists has sparked a response from groups aligned with industry and the GOP. (The Washington Post)

This book is designed to spark debate and critical thinking among colleagues. It is at first easier to think about practice after it has happened. Dilemmas and Decision Making in Residential Childcare


transitive verb
  2. to stir to activity : INCITE
sparked her team to victory

If the behaviour is intentional, and the purpose is to create division or draw attention:

She will act, write, or say something to stir things up.

One of her TikToks filmed while exploring a cemetery reached 2.7 million viewers and stirred up a host of mixed reactions.
So, is this latest stunt a rejection of the quiet luxury craze, the start of a new trend, or simply a stir up views and clicks?
Source: Merriam-Webster


You could call this testing the waters.

TFD defines test the waters as:

To informally or casually attempt to gauge the reaction of a potential audience or recipient of something, or to try to get an idea of what something will be like before actually doing it. Likened to feeling the temperature of water before getting in.


One possibility is stimulate

to make someone excited and interested about something:
The show was intended to stimulate and amuse.

Merriam Webster
to excite to activity or growth or to greater activity: ANIMATE, AROUSE
Their discussion stimulated him to research the subject more

Both these definitions make clear that stimulating is not necessarily negative. It excites or arouses emotions such as curiosity, interest or reflection, perhaps action or response.

The Merriam Webster site offers an interesting set of synonyms as below, too long to analyse here, but they illustrate the range of meaning. Much of it is relevant to your question; all of it is consistent with a neutral or positive meaning to stimulate.

enter image description here


Another possibility would be the verb to spur.

You said that just to spur a reaction.


Prod occurs to me. As with a stick and something slow, like sheep, not hard, encouraging. Or, slightly differently: of a finger in the shoulder not too hard...


This may be a duplicate - I cannot find the first place I put it, which was a last-line edit on the offering of "eliciting information":

How about "elicidate" as a play on elucidate, and also elicit data.

  • 1
    It's generally rather frowned upon to suggest words not found in a good dictionary in response to single-word requests. The word you suggest isn't in my dictionary, can you tell us which one(s) you found it in? Commented Jul 1 at 8:22
  • Ah, thank you for the guidance. I did imagine, as happens every year, a new word that meets a new need, and in this case, meant seriously as a nearly-obvious double construct. But point taken, thx. Commented Jul 1 at 8:31
  • The 'U' in ELU stands for usage. Commonly accepted usages. Neologisms (like 'selfie') are fine (Oxford produce a book full of them) but protologisms are verboten on ELU. Commented Jul 1 at 14:01
  • So, then, what did you think of my other offering? Commented Jul 4 at 2:56

The word induce has meanings that straddle the requested one:

induce [verb]

  1. succeed in persuading or leading (someone) to do something.
  • the pickets induced many workers to stay away

Similar: persuade / convince / prevail upon / get / make / prompt / move / inspire / instigate / influence / exert influence on / press / urge / incite / encourage / impel / actuate / motivate / coax into / wheedle into / cajole into / talk into / prod into / procure / twist someone's arm

  1. bring about or give rise to.
  • none of these measures induced a change of policy

[ODE courtesy of Google]

  • [T]he 1913 premiere of The Rite of Spring induced a riot.


  • [I]t induced a strong reaction from the United States.

[Power and Negotiation; ed Zartman & Rubin]

As an adverb, inductively has too powerful a default sense.

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