\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

Scott Olson/Getty Images On Thursday morning, FBI agents raided the City Hall office of Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, a powerful figure in Illinois state politics and a former property tax attorney for Donald Trump. Stavros Agorakis, Vox, "Ed Burke represented Trump on property tax issues between 2006 and 2018.," 29 Nov. 2018 The tiers are highly debated, but basically a micro-influencer is really anyone who doesn’t have an agent or representation yet. Ashley Carman, The Verge, "Who’s your Instagram boyfriend?," 14 Nov. 2018 Ulis' departure came a day before the Suns signed free-agent wing Trevor Ariza. azcentral, "Video: Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis involved in elevator fight in 2017," 13 July 2018 For Pace, Burton immediately came to mind as a free-agent target. Rich Campbell,, "Had to be 'U': Tight end Trey Burton's transformative position in the Bears offense," 13 July 2018 Hurns and Thompson are free-agent signees entering their first season with the Cowboys. Clarence E. Hill Jr., star-telegram, "Wishing upon a star: QB Dak Prescott working out, bonding with Cowboys WRs at Disney," 12 July 2018 Terrance Williams and free-agent signing Allen Hurns are the early leaders to see the most action, but the unit likely will need other players to emerge. Michael Middlehurst-schwartz, USA TODAY, "Cowboys training camp questions: Who steps up at receiver for Dak Prescott?," 12 July 2018 Soria’s free-agent deal was a departure from loading the bullpen with younger, cheap, power arms. Sam Mellinger, kansascity, "The State of the Royals, Part 1 of 2: How did they get here?," 12 July 2018 The Phillies might be able to win a free-agent bidding war if a new start in Philadelphia is the bright lights and big city. David Murphy,, "Second thoughts about the Phillies and Manny Machado | David Murphy," 11 July 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

6 Dec 2018

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


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


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



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


\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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\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



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 Encyclopedia article about agent

Comments on agent

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a nest or breeding place

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