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

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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 Throughout the film, Craig’s Bond repeatedly underestimates or discounts younger characters, such as Lynch’s fellow MI6 agent, de Armas’ CIA agent Paloma and Billy Magnussen’s State Department emissary Logan Ash, each time setting him back. Los Angeles Times, 28 Sep. 2021 Richardson had met with the junta chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, just two weeks ago — the first prominent Western emissary to visit since the coup. Richard C. Paddock, BostonGlobe.com, 15 Nov. 2021 To that end, the Taliban has dispatched Mahdi to Hazara areas as an emissary and set up informal Shiite courts for the first time to attract more Hazaras. Washington Post, 1 Nov. 2021 In Kenya, Blinken met with President Uhuru Kenyatta, who the State Department hopes can act as a regional emissary in pushing for a cease-fire. Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2021 Pence, a congressman for more than a decade before becoming Indiana’s governor, served as Trump’s emissary to the conservative and evangelical wings of the GOP. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 10 Nov. 2021 Fred Weir, as a foreign journalist, is an emissary of a foreign state. Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor, 17 Sep. 2021 The Biden administration has been enlisting one emissary after another to persuade Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to help raise the federal debt limit. Arkansas Online, 17 Sep. 2021 So, in May, 2013, Joumblatt sent an emissary to Istanbul, who escorted Halabi onto a plane. Ben Taub, The New Yorker, 13 Sep. 2021

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.

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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

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The first known use of emissary was in 1607

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Last Updated

24 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Emissary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/emissary. Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for emissary



English Language Learners Definition of emissary

: a person who is sent on a mission to represent another person or organization


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


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