em·​is·​sary ˈe-mə-ˌser-ē How to pronounce emissary (audio)
plural emissaries
: one designated as the agent of another : representative
: a secret agent

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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.

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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 The Snyders were Dorothy and her companions—the Wizard’s emissaries. Jonathan Lethem, The New Yorker, 21 Aug. 2023 Yoshino or its yakitori equivalent, Kono, feel like emissaries of Japanese culture. Pete Wells, New York Times, 29 Aug. 2023 The massive uprooting of entire Jewish communities has been experienced keenly by Chabad, which has the largest Jewish presence in the country, with hundreds of emissaries serving Jewish communities in dozens of cities. Marcel Gascón Barberá, Sun Sentinel, 9 Mar. 2023 On our day with Eric, who had a wry sense of humor for a Mickey Mouse emissary (and who had conquered a job application process with an acceptance rate that makes Harvard look like a community college), a hurricane passed through Orlando, closing the parks until 1 p.m. Danielle Stein Chizzik, Town & Country, 22 Jan. 2023 Soon, a Russian emissary acting in service of Wagner was ensconced in the Presidential palace as one of Touadéra’s top advisers. Joshua Yaffa, The New Yorker, 31 July 2023 Gone was the wartime leader of the early weeks who sent emissaries to talks in Belarus and Turkey in the hope that reason might prevail. David L. Stern, Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2023 Nami is an emissary from a world riven by economic inequality. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 5 July 2023 Zhou was acting as an emissary for the leader of China, Mao Zedong. Carter Malkasian, Foreign Affairs, 20 June 2023 See More

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

Word History


Latin emissarius, from emissus, past participle of emittere

First Known Use

1607, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of emissary was in 1607


Dictionary Entries Near emissary

Cite this Entry

“Emissary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emissary. Accessed 2 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


em·​is·​sary ˈem-ə-ˌser-ē How to pronounce emissary (audio)
plural emissaries
: a person sent on a mission to represent another

Legal Definition


em·​is·​sary ˈe-mə-ˌser-ē How to pronounce emissary (audio)
plural emissaries
: a representative usually empowered to act more or less independently (as in collecting or conveying information or in negotiating)

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