1520s, "that incites or instigates," present participle adjective from provoke. Meaning "irritating, frustrating" is attested from 1640s. Related: Provokingly.
late 14c., from Old French provoker, provochier (12c., Modern French provoquer) and directly from Latin provocare "call forth, challenge," from pro- "forth" (see pro-) + vocare "to call" (see voice (n.)). Related: Provoked; provoking.