What can I name a person who increases the argument between two people.

Can I call him as catalyst or is any other word available?

  • 1
    catalyst is the commonest I can think of. I've been using this for years!
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 8:33
  • 2
    quarrelsome is the one who himself/herself is annoying and tempted to start quarrel. Here, the OP is talking about someone who tempts others to argue and fight! @CopperKettle
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 9:27
  • 2
    @MaulikV - oh, the meaning is "between two other persons"? I would do a search for synonyms for "instigator" then. Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 9:30
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of ell.stackexchange.com/q/60992/20120 Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 19:07
  • 2
    @shawnt00 In theory escalator might fit because the person is "escalating" the conflict, but I have never heard the noun escalator used to refer to a person - it's is either a moving stairway or a means of rising or descending by stages.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 22:27

7 Answers 7


In this context, I think two words would work.

Instigator - a ​person who ​causes something to ​happen, ​especially something ​bad


Inflammatory person

As we use 'inflammatory remarks' to denote something that causes something bad, inflammatory person is the one who causes dispute by adding fuel to the fire

  • +1 for 'inflammatory' remark. It may not the exact term everybody would understand but metaphorically, this is a good option. And, I think 'instigator' is the closest possible answer to this question.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 5:07
  • @MaulikV don't agree about "instigator", which is specifically the cause (with a connotation of being through action, not inaction) - but the question asks for one who increases the argument, not who starts it. "Inflammatory" is fine though.
    – SusanW
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 19:50

Best suggestion: conflict escalator.
Also acceptable: argument escalator.

The term for increasing an argument would be to "escalate" the argument. Unfortunately the term "escalator" would normally be held to mean an actual "moving stairs" escalator, such as in a building with multiple floors, so it is awkward to try to describe this concept with a single word.

If an argument, or disagreement, between Amit and Shiva starts out with polite words, but then Amit begins insulting and cursing Shiva, one could say "Amit is the one who escalated the argument". If you said "Amit was the escalator" it would most likely draw puzzled looks, as people try to figure out how Amit used to be moving stairs made of metal, but somewhere along the line changed into human form.

It would sound appropriate to label someone as a "conflict escalator". For example, one might say, "His attorney is a conflict escalator" to describe an attorney who looks to instigate fights between the parties involved. (Here, instigate means to start an argument, where there wasn't one before.)

The other available words mentioned thus far, catalyst, and instigator, are a bit too general to capture the sense of a back-and-forth argument. A catalyst would be someone whose presence is required for the argument to occur, but does not necessarily participate in the argument, such as two men arguing over a whether the bartender's shirt is blue or purple. The bartender (their shirt, to be precise) is the catalyst, but may not be involved in the argument, or even aware of it. An instigator would be the person who starts, i.e., instigates the argument, such as by verbally attacking the other person. Opinions can differ on who really started the argument, but the term instigator means the one who started it. The term "inflammatory person" is a general negative label of another person. It is not a specific description of the behavior of escalating an argument.

The one who "escalates" the argument would normally refer to a person or party who is directly involved in the argument, rather than an outside agent like a catalyst.

  • No objections to the word, but it might be worth explaining that "escalator" alone normally refers to a moving staircase.
    – Karen
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 0:39
  • I believe that was covered in the answer, with mentions of "moving stairs". Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 19:12
  • Google nGrams returns no results for "conflict escalator" - it's not something I would ever think to use over "instigator". Even though it is theoretically OK and I would probably understand the intent behind "he is a conflict escalator", it would sound odd to me. Also, I am not the source of the DV - this is just commentary not a criticism.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 22:48
  • The original question involves a scenario where an "argument", i.e., conflict, is already occurring, and one of the parties "increases", i.e., escalates the argument. The other suggestions thus far do not capture the idea that there is already an existing argument. This term would be very appropriate in discussing which attorney one should select to represent you in a dispute. For example, family law attorney who has a reputation as a "conflict escalator" is likely to trigger what is known as a "high conflict divorce". Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 17:51
  • There is also the concept of a "high conflict personality", which could apply to a person who is continually instigating and escalating arguments and conflicts in their relationships with others. This also is a general label rather than a specific description of a person's behavior in a specific argument. Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 17:53

Agitator comes close and could work, although this is not the normal context for it...

...as well as incendiary, although, again, this is not commonly used in your context.


Stirrer is a British usage. Depending on your audience perhaps trouble stirrer or argument stirrer would be clear enough and also appropriate.

Troublemaker might fit as well although that can encompass as lot of things.


Believe it or not, there is a Positive way to fuel the fire:



1.a person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments

An alternative definition, and more appropriate to a friendly debate is:

  • Someone who takes the other side of the argument purely for the sake of argument.

The one who stokes the flames of an argument in a less positive light is an Antagonist:



1.a person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary

Some good synonyms are:

  1. obstreperous
  2. truculent
  3. vociferous

For figurative speaking occasions:

accelerant   A substance that accelerates the development of a fire.


Merriam-Webster says one who provokes is a provocateur.

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