: conflict
especially : the dramatic conflict between the chief characters in a literary work

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Agon and Greek History

Agon comes from the Greek word agōn, which is translated with a number of meanings, among them "contest," "competition at games," and "gathering." In ancient Greece, agons (the word is also pluralized in English as agones) were contests held during public festivals. The contests—among them the ancient Olympics, on which our modern Olympics is modeled—involved everything from athletics to chariot and horse racing to music and literature. Agon in the realm of literature refers to the dramatic conflict between the main characters in a Greek play or, more broadly, between the chief characters in any literary work. The word is also occasionally used to refer to conflict in general.

Examples of agon in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Ferrara aligns Forgione’s agon with the self-conscious struggles of modern agnostics — Pio’s mysticism is interpreted by actor-activist Shia LaBeouf in terms of secular anguish, familiar from Ferrara’s American-set exploitation/art movies The Funeral, Bad Lieutenant, and The King of New York. Armond White, National Review, 2 June 2023 For Brown, the project proves an antidote to, or refuge from, the roiling agon of our times. Matthew Gavin Frank, Harper's Magazine, 4 May 2023 And there is no coöperation in the Trump world, because everything is an agon. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, 30 Jan. 2023 The tale itself highlights Greene’s prescient moral insight for the War on Terror: in situations of limited agency, description is the foundational moral agon. Matthew Carey Salyer, Forbes, 23 Sep. 2021 His grand vision here drops a few narrative strands: Batman’s troubled conscience and Superman’s resurrection and reunion with Lois Lane (Amy Adams) get neglected in exchange for closer examination of Aquaman’s origin and Cyborg’s agon. Armond White, National Review, 19 Mar. 2021 Each competitor in the agon is expected to stake his or her claims on truth; Nietzsche advanced his own opinions with utmost vehemence. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 7 Oct. 2019 See More

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

Word History


borrowed from Greek agṓn "gathering, assembly, contest" — more at agony

First Known Use

1600, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of agon was in 1600


Dictionary Entries Near agon

Cite this Entry

“Agon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agon. Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

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