agent

noun
\ ˈā-jənt \
plural agents

Definition of agent

1 : one that acts or exerts power
2a : something that produces or is capable of producing an effect : an active or efficient cause Education proved to be an agent of change in the community.
b : a chemically, physically, or biologically active principle an oxidizing agent
3 : a means or instrument by which a guiding intelligence achieves a result
4 : one who is authorized to act for or in the place of another: such as
a : a representative, emissary, or official of a government crown agent federal agent
b : one engaged in undercover activities (such as espionage) : spy a secret agent
c : a business representative (as of an athlete or entertainer) a theatrical agent
5 : a computer application designed to automate certain tasks (such as gathering information online)

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Other Words from agent

agentive \ ˈā-​jən-​tiv \ adjective

Examples of agent in a Sentence

They worked with a travel agent to plan their vacation. the whitening agent in the detergent is chlorine bleach

Recent Examples on the Web

Some patients may also benefit from biologic agents like etanercept (Enbrel) and adalimumab (Humira) to help reduce inflammation and prevent joint damage, the Mayo Clinic says. Korin Miller, SELF, "Claire Foy on What It Was Like to Have 'Extremely Painful' Juvenile Arthritis," 9 Jan. 2019 While the government stalls in limbo over a decision to fund a $5 billion wall on the southern border, agents are seeing their livelihoods hang in the balance. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "TSA Workers Are Calling Out Sick as the Government Shutdown Rages On," 7 Jan. 2019 One of my favorite books of 2017 was io9 founder Annalee Newitz’s debut novel, Autonomous, about pharmaceutical pirates named Jack and the robot and government agent pair who pursue her. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "All the science fiction and fantasy books we’re looking forward to in 2019," 30 Dec. 2018 The new plan allows agents at the border to release families directly if they’ve been held for more than a few days, which could leave hundreds of families dropped around El Paso and around the Rio Grande Valley. Amanda Sakuma, Vox, "Trump is using the deaths of two migrant children to push for his border wall," 29 Dec. 2018 But remember: These TSA agents are just doing their job, and enforcing policies set out by the U.S. government. Katherine Lagrave, Condé Nast Traveler, "Rules For Flying to Follow So You Don't Get Kicked Off Your Flight," 19 Dec. 2018 Jenner was photographed at a local McDonald's in Oxford, England with her friend and model agent Ashleah Gonzales and a bodyguard. Isabel Greenberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kendall Jenner Stopped at McDonald's After the British Fashion Awards," 11 Dec. 2018 The airline sent maintenance technicians, customer service agents and a new crew to work on the flight back to Seattle, Huddleston said. Asia Fields, The Seattle Times, "Plane from Beijing reaches Seattle after 12-hour unscheduled stop on remote Alaskan island," 26 Dec. 2018 According to Forbes, these pretax estimates are from June 1, 2017-June 1, 2018, and do not include payments to managers, agents, and lawyers. Jennifer Aldrich, Country Living, "Judge Judy Sheindlin Is the Highest-Paid Host on Television," 28 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'agent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of agent

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for agent

Middle English, "force capable of acting on matter," borrowed from Medieval Latin agent-, agens "something capable of producing an effect, person authorized to act for another," going back to Latin, present participle of agere "to drive (cattle), ride (a horse), be in motion, do, perform, transact," going back to Indo-European *h2eǵ- "drive," whence Sanskrit ajati "(s/he) drives," Greek ágein "to lead, carry off," Armenian acem "(I) lead," Old Irish ad-aig "drives, impels," Old Norse aka "to travel in a vehicle"

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Learn More about agent

Statistics for agent

Last Updated

18 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for agent

The first known use of agent was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for agent

enrolled agent

noun

Financial Definition of enrolled agent

What It Is

An enrolled agent (EA) is person who is authorized to represent a taxpayer before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

How It Works

To become an EA, a person has to pass a three-part comprehensive IRS test of individual and business tax returns or be a former IRS employee with appropriate experience. To maintain the credential, EAs must obey ethical standards and complete 72 hours of continuing education every three years.

The EA designation is the highest one the IRS confers, and EAs have the authority to represent any taxpayer for any tax matter.

Why It Matters

Tax advisors can be CPAs, attorneys, or other people, but not all tax advisors are EAs. Treasury Department Circular No. 230 sets forth the requirements for who can practice before the IRS.

EAs and other tax advisors might help a client structure his assets such that his estate taxes are lower. They might help a company organize itself so that its shareholders pay less in taxes or so that an acquisition does not generate a large tax liability.

Source: Investing Answers

transfer agent

noun

Financial Definition of transfer agent

What It Is

A transfer agent manages and maintains records of who owns a corporation's or mutual fund's stock or bonds. Most transfer agents are banks or trust companies, although some companies act as their own transfer agents.

How It Works

Let's assume Company XYZ is a publicly traded corporation that has 10,000,000 shares outstanding. If the shares trade all day, how does Company XYZ know who owns its shares? The answer lies with the transfer agent.

The transfer agent has three big jobs: 1) to issue and cancel stock certificates (including when a company pays a stock dividend or has a stock split); 2) to be an intermediary that makes the dividend or interest payments, sends out and keeps track of proxy materials, exchanges the company's stock or bonds if a merger occurs, tenders shares when necessary, and mails the company's financials and other reports; and, 3) to deal with replacing lost, stolen, or destroyed certificates.

Why It Matters

Transfer agents are crucial behind-the-scenes entities in the business world because they maintain important information and protect even the smallest shareholder or bondholder's right to information disclosure. Without transfer agents, companies would have to find other ways to manage the incredible, time-consuming tasks of keeping track of the constant changes in shareholder and bondholder information.

Source: Investing Answers

agent

noun

English Language Learners Definition of agent

: a person who does business for another person : a person who acts on behalf of another

: a person who tries to get secret information about another country, government, etc.

: a person or thing that causes something to happen

agent

noun
\ ˈā-jənt \

Kids Definition of agent

1 : something that produces an effect cleansing agents
2 : a person who acts or does business for another a travel agent

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agent

noun
\ ˈā-jənt \

Medical Definition of agent

1 : something that produces or is capable of producing an effect
2 : a chemically, physically, or biologically active principle — see oxidizing agent, reducing agent

agent

noun

Legal Definition of agent

1 : someone or something that acts or exerts power : a moving force in achieving some result
2 : a person guided or instigated by another in some action where the heads of departments are the political…agents of the executive, merely to execute the will of the presidentMarbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803) — see also innocent agent
3a : a person or entity (as an employee or independent contractor) authorized to act on behalf of and under the control of another in dealing with third parties — see also agency sense 2, fiduciary relationship, subagent — compare fiduciary, principal, servant
apparent agent
: an agent acting under an agency by estoppel
bargaining agent
: a labor union that represents the employees in a bargaining unit in negotiating with their employer through collective bargaining
business agent
: an agent that handles business affairs for another person or organization especially : a paid official of a union who carries on union business between the employees and the employer
collective bargaining agent
: bargaining agent in this entry
del credere agent
: an agent that guarantees to his or her principal that third parties involved in the transaction will pay or perform
enrolled agent
: a person qualified through expertise and good reputation to represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service
exclusive agent
: an agent acting under an exclusive agency
general agent
: an agent acting under a general agency
legislative agent
: an agent (as for an interest group) that lobbies a legislature especially professionally
managing agent
: an agent or employee of a corporation or other business entity who has a position that involves the use of judgment and discretion and who is considered under the law as capable of accepting service of process and answering questions under cross-examination on behalf of the business entity
ostensible agent
: an agent acting under an agency by estoppel
special agent
: an agent authorized to do one or more specific acts under particular instructions or within restrictions implied by the nature of the authorized acts : an agent acting under a special agency — compare general agent in this entry
transfer agent
: an officer, bank, or trust company that acts on behalf of a publicly held corporation in handling the transfer of stock and other securities and keeping records of the owners
universal agent
: an agent acting under a general agency
b : a representative (as of a corporation or nonresident administrator of an estate) designated to accept service of process on behalf of the represented party usually as required by statute
c : a person or organization that finds buyers or tenants for real estate owners usually for a commission
d : an independent sales or service representative of an insurance company — compare broker
4a : a representative, emissary, or official of a government a diplomatic agent
b : an employee of a government agency usually that is involved in law enforcement

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More from Merriam-Webster on agent

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for agent

Spanish Central: Translation of agent

Nglish: Translation of agent for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of agent for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about agent

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