plural agents
: one that acts or exerts power
: 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.
: a chemically, physically, or biologically active principle
an oxidizing agent
: a means or instrument by which a guiding intelligence achieves a result
: one who is authorized to act for or in the place of another: such as
: a representative, emissary, or official of a government
crown agent
federal agent
: one engaged in undercover activities (such as espionage) : spy
a secret agent
: a business representative (as of an athlete or entertainer)
a theatrical agent
: a computer application designed to automate certain tasks (such as gathering information online)
agentive adjective

Example Sentences

They worked with a travel agent to plan their vacation. the whitening agent in the detergent is chlorine bleach
Recent Examples on the Web So was an Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations agent named Tigran Gambaryan. WIRED, 15 Nov. 2022 In the process, Doug falls into petty squabbles with a DEA agent who takes his mom on stakeouts, his optometrist neighbor who up-sold his son on transition lenses, and even the band overzealously scoring his podcast. Eliana Dockterman, Time, 14 Nov. 2022 Los Angeles Lakers player LeBron James and his wife, Savannah, were also in attendance, as was sports agent Rich Paul. Shafiq Najib, Peoplemag, 13 Nov. 2022 The indictment identifies Sadeghi as an Iranian intelligence agent who researched and hired investigators in the United States, Canada, and Britain to procure surveillance services for Iranian intelligence, the indictment said. Benjamin Weiser,, 13 Nov. 2022 Trading her comedy badge for a police one, Andrea Savage from Bob's Burgers and Veep plays an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Irene Richardson, Country Living, 13 Nov. 2022 Social and romantic opportunities will tempt you, but schedule them for Thursday when Venus has a power date with fantasy agent Neptune. The Astrotwins, ELLE, 13 Nov. 2022 According to information on the Goodman Real Estate Services Group website (leasing agent), Nagel Crossing features seven retail spaces, averaging approximately 2,300-square-foot each. cleveland, 12 Nov. 2022 This is cloud-native vulnerability management detection & response (VDMR) capable of working at what is known as six sigma 6σ levels of accuracy (i.e. 99.99966%) with tools that make use of both software agent and agentless system scanning. Adrian Bridgwater, Forbes, 11 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

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

Medical Definition

: something that produces or is capable of producing an effect
: a chemically, physically, or biologically active principle see oxidizing agent, reducing agent

Legal Definition



: someone or something that acts or exerts power : a moving force in achieving some result
: 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 president Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803)
see also innocent agent
: 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
: 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
: a person or organization that finds buyers or tenants for real estate owners usually for a commission
: an independent sales or service representative of an insurance company compare broker
: a representative, emissary, or official of a government
a diplomatic agent
: an employee of a government agency usually that is involved in law enforcement

More from Merriam-Webster on agent

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