em·​is·​sary | \ ˈe-mə-ˌser-ē How to pronounce emissary (audio) , -ˌse-rē \
plural emissaries

Definition of emissary

1 : one designated as the agent of another : representative
2 : a secret agent

Did you know?

An emissary is often a person who is sent somewhere in order to act as a representative. The key in that sentence is sent; emissary derives from Latin emissus, the past participle of the verb emittere, meaning "to send out."  By the early 17th century, it was a commonly seen and heard word. An earlier common emittere descendant is emit. In addition, emittere itself comes from Latin mittere ("to send"), which is an ancestor of many English words, including admit, commit, mission, omit, permit, premise, promise, and submit.

Did you know?

Like missionaries, emissaries are sent on missions. However, emissaries are more likely to be representing governments, political leaders, and nonreligious institutions, and an emissary's mission is usually to negotiate or to gather information. So a president may send a trusted emissary to a war-torn region to discuss peace terms. A company's CEO may send an emissary to check out another company that they may be thinking of buying. And a politician may send out an emissary to persuade a wealthy individual to become a supporter.

Examples of emissary in a Sentence

She acted as the president's personal emissary to the union leaders. most of the industrialized nations of the world sent emissaries to the conference on global warming
Recent Examples on the Web Naturally, the bishop of Iceland sends an emissary to investigate these goings-on. The Atlantic, 16 May 2022 Kurt Volker, who served as Donald Trump’s special emissary to Ukraine before resigning during the former president’s first impeachment, has also been a leading advocate for a no-fly zone, as have several other foreign policyluminaries. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 15 Mar. 2022 In June, during a private meeting with a former American emissary to Moscow, Andropov expressed fears of a conflagration far worse than the Second World War, in which the two nations had been allies. Francine Uenuma, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 Apr. 2022 As the proverbial woman behind the most powerful man on earth, the first lady plays an often undefined role as political ally, emissary, hostess and, in some cases, arbiter of style. Cathy Whitlock, The Hollywood Reporter, 27 Apr. 2022 The Mohel knew of a Ukrainian Jew, a Chabad emissary in Vienna 800 miles away, named Kolomoitsev. Washington Post, 15 Apr. 2022 The Almighty wishes to intervene – and calls upon Moses to act as his emissary. Robert F. Barsky, The Conversation, 14 Mar. 2022 Increasingly, Zuckerberg would take on a far more active role as Facebook’s emissary in DC. Benjamin Wofford, Wired, 10 Mar. 2022 Among the first in the wave of standing ovations for Ukrainian ambassadors came Sunday when members of the German Bundestag stood and applauded Andriy Melnyk, the emissary to Germany. Washington Post, 1 Mar. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of emissary

1607, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for emissary

Latin emissarius, from emissus, past participle of emittere

Learn More About emissary

Time Traveler for emissary

Time Traveler

The first known use of emissary was in 1607

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About emissary

Dictionary Entries Near emissary




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for emissary

Last Updated

23 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Emissary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emissary. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for emissary


em·​is·​sary | \ ˈe-mə-ˌser-ē How to pronounce emissary (audio) \
plural emissaries

Kids Definition of emissary

: a person sent on a mission to represent someone else


em·​is·​sary | \ ˈe-mə-ˌser-ē How to pronounce emissary (audio) \
plural emissaries

Legal Definition of emissary

: a representative usually empowered to act more or less independently (as in collecting or conveying information or in negotiating)

More from Merriam-Webster on emissary

Nglish: Translation of emissary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of emissary for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!