plural agents
1
: one that acts or exerts power
2
a
: 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)
agentive 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 But one thing that luxury buyers, sellers, and agents will have to look out for is the mansion tax: a darling of politicians pushing for more affordable housing support and a detriment to those close to the luxury-housing market. Sydney Lake, Fortune, 24 Feb. 2024 After the September 11, 2001, attacks and the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, the border became increasingly militarized; in 2003, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed Juan Patricio Peraza Quijada, a nineteen-year-old who was staying at Annunciation House. Rachel Monroe, The New Yorker, 23 Feb. 2024 Michel was eventually convicted of all 10 counts, including conspiracy and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government. Michael Kunzelman and Lindsay Whitehurst, USA TODAY, 23 Feb. 2024 According to the document, federal agents uncovered security footage that showed Stanley in the hallway outside the cell. Quinlan Bentley, The Enquirer, 23 Feb. 2024 In addition, Napoli Management Group, which is a division of Paradigm Media Entertainment, has tapped Brian Neal as an agent. Katcy Stephan, Variety, 22 Feb. 2024 Apatow joked that his agents told him to hold out for more money for his fifth time as host of the DGA ceremony. J. Kim Murphy, Variety, 11 Feb. 2024 Robert Garcia, the chief patrol agent in charge of the Swanton Sector, said in a social media post on Friday that the 3,100 people apprehended in the sector since October — more than the past four fiscal years combined — hailed from 55 countries. Luis Ferré-Sadurní, New York Times, 11 Feb. 2024 The listing agents are Rob Kildow, director of residential sales and principal broker at Hualalai Realty, and Kurtis Becker, managing director at Hawai’i Global Luxury Group. David Caraccio, Sacramento Bee, 10 Feb. 2024 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

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"

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near agent

Cite this Entry

“Agent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agent. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

agent

noun
1
a
: something that produces an effect
a cleansing agent
b
: a chemically, physically, or biologically active substance
2
: a person who acts or does business for another
government agents
a real estate agent
Etymology

Middle English agent "one that produces an effect," derived from Latin agere "to drive, act, do" — related to act, agile

Medical Definition

agent

noun
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

agent

noun
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
3
a
: 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
4
a
: 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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