agen·​cy ˈā-jən(t)-sē How to pronounce agency (audio)
plural agencies
: the office or function of an agent (see agent sense 4)
: the relationship between a principal and that person's agent
: the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power : operation
: a person or thing through which power is exerted or an end is achieved : instrumentality
communicated through the agency of the ambassador
: an establishment engaged in doing business for another
an advertising agency
: an administrative division (as of a government)
the agency for consumer protection

Examples of agency in a Sentence

the federal agency in charge of printing money The employment agency helps those who have been recently laid off find jobs.
Recent Examples on the Web Federal utility regulators, along with public service agencies in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, contended Entergy's mismanagement of Grand Gulf led to excess charges for ratepayers in the states. Andrew Moreau,, 1 Dec. 2023 In addition, products containing pre-cut cantaloupe such as fruit salads may pose a salmonella risk to consumers, according to the agency. Elizabeth Napolitano, CBS News, 1 Dec. 2023 Some doses of semaglutide are still listed as in shortage on the agency’s drug shortage database website. Berkeley Lovelace Jr., NBC News, 30 Nov. 2023 Recently, however, a government agency found the bank was at fault. Kyle Melnick, Washington Post, 30 Nov. 2023 Klimek: What makes these groups effective versus government agencies or more formal organizations? Chris Klimek, Smithsonian Magazine, 30 Nov. 2023 Some European countries have reported an uptick in respiratory illness cases, including mycoplasma pneumoniae infections, in recent weeks, according to local health agencies. Youri Benadjaoud, ABC News, 30 Nov. 2023 The bloc’s consumer price index—a measure of the cost of goods and services—rose 2.4% on year, slowing from 2.9% the previous month, according to preliminary data published by the European Union’s statistics agency Eurostat on Thursday. Ed Frankl, WSJ, 30 Nov. 2023 Then, in July, just three months before the attacks, a veteran analyst with Unit 8200, Israel’s signals intelligence agency, warned that Hamas had conducted an intense, daylong training exercise that appeared similar to what was outlined in the blueprint. Adam Goldman, New York Times, 30 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'agency.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


ag(ent) + -ency, perhaps after Medieval Latin agentia, derivative of agent-, agens agent

First Known Use

1640, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of agency was in 1640

Dictionary Entries Near agency

Cite this Entry

“Agency.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


agen·​cy ˈā-jən-sē How to pronounce agency (audio)
plural agencies
: the office or function of an agent
: a person or thing through which power is used or something is achieved : means
: an establishment doing business for another
an insurance agency
: a part of a government that manages projects in a certain area
a health agency

Legal Definition


plural agencies
: the person or thing through which power is exerted or an end is achieved
death by criminal agencyW. R. LaFave and A. W. Scott, Jr.
: a consensual fiduciary relationship in which one party acts on behalf of and under the control of another in dealing with third parties
also : the power of one in such a relationship to act on behalf of another

Note: A principal is bound by and liable for acts of his or her agent that are within the scope of the agency.

actual agency
: the agency that exists when an agent is in fact employed by a principal see also express agency and implied agency in this entry
agency by estoppel
: an agency that is not created as an actual agency by a principal and an agent but that is imposed by law when a principal acts in such a way as to lead a third party to reasonably believe that another is the principal's agent and the third party is injured by relying on and acting in accordance with that belief

Note: A principal has a duty to correct a third party's mistaken belief in an agent's authority to act on the principal's behalf. If the principal could have corrected the misunderstanding but failed to do so, he or she is estopped from denying the existence of the agency and is bound by the agent's acts in dealing with the third party.

agency coupled with an interest
: an agency in which the agent has an interest in the property regarding which he or she is acting on the principal's behalf
apparent agency
: agency by estoppel in this entry
exclusive agency
: an agency common in real estate sales in which the property owner agrees to employ no agents to sell the property other than the one hired for a specified period
express agency
: an actual agency created by the written or spoken words of the principal authorizing the agent to act compare implied agency in this entry
general agency
: an agency in which the agent is authorized to perform on behalf of the principal in all matters in furtherance of a particular business of the principal compare special agency in this entry
implied agency
: an actual agency created by acts of a principal that reasonably imply an intention to create an agency relationship compare express agency in this entry
ostensible agency
: agency by estoppel in this entry
special agency
: an agency in which the agent is authorized to perform only specified acts or to act only in a specified transaction compare general agency in this entry
universal agency
: general agency in this entry
: the office and function of an agent
even when granted discretion in carrying out his agencyR. C. Clark
: the law concerned with the relationship of a principal and an agent
: an establishment engaged in doing the business of another: as
: an establishment authorized by an insurance company to sell insurance policies and provide services offered by the insurer
: an establishment authorized by property owners to find a buyer for their property

Note: Many businesses that use the term agency are not truly agencies as defined in sense 2.

: a department or other unit of government created by legislation to administer the law in a particular area of public concern

called also administrative agency

see also enabling statute, exhaustion of remedies, Administrative Procedure Act

Note: When a legislature determines that government involvement is needed in a particular social activity or problem, it may write legislation creating an agency either directly or by authorizing the executive to set it up. Agencies exist at the federal, state, and local levels. Most federal agencies are attached to the executive branch of government. Some agencies (such as the Environmental Protection Agency) are called an agency. An agency may, however, be called such other names as board (as the National Labor Relations Board), commission (as the Securities and Exchange Commission), administration (as the Social Security Administration), and service (as the Internal Revenue Service). Agencies at the federal level are governed by the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, which is found at title 5 of the U.S. Code.

independent agency
: an agency that is not part of any of the three branches of government
regulatory agency
: an agency that is authorized by the legislature to establish and enforce rules regulating its particular area of concern often used interchangeably with agency or administrative agency

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