Meaning of AGENT in English

I. ˈājənt noun

( -s )

Etymology: in sense 1, from Middle English, from Medieval Latin agent-, agens, from Latin, present participle; in senses 2, 3 & 4, from French or Latin; French, from Latin, present participle; in sense 5, from Late Latin & Medieval Latin, from Latin, present participle


a. : something that produces or is capable of producing a certain effect : an active or efficient cause : a force effecting or facilitating a certain result

the … emergence of the Christian church as the civilizing agent of the western world — Helen Sullivan

b. : a substance capable of producing a chemical reaction or a physical or biological effect : an active principle

chromic acid is an oxidizing agent

detergents are surface-active agents or wetting agents


a. : one that acts or exerts power (as by driving, inciting, or setting in motion) : a moving force

the distinction between agent and patient, between something which acts and some other thing which is acted upon — Francis Bowen

b. : a person who originates a telepathic impulse or message — compare percipient

3. : one that acts or performs an act (as an act involving reason, conscience, and free will) : a person responsible for his act or acts

for that same deed now at Lorenzo's church both agents, conscious and inconscious, lie — Robert Browning

4. : a means or instrument by which a guiding intelligence achieves a result : a person governed, guided, or instigated by another in some action

where the heads of departments are the political or confidential agents of the executive, merely to execute the will of the president — John Marshall

5. : one that acts for or in the place of another by authority from him: as

a. : a representative, emissary, or official of a government

a crown agent

an Indian agent

a secret-service agent

b. : a special representative sent from one military organization to another to establish and maintain liaison

c. : a field worker from a welfare bureau

d. : a paid party worker who manages the financial and other affairs of a British political party during an election and is legally responsible for any corrupt practices

e. : a business representative: as

(1) : a manager of an assigned territory or a branch office or plant of an industry

(2) : one that sells and rents real estate on a commission basis

(3) : an independent sales or service representative of an insurance company usually paid on a commission basis

Synonyms: see mean

II. adjective

Etymology: Latin agent-, agens, present participle of agere to drive, lead, act, do; akin to Old Norse aka to travel in a vehicle, Greek agein to lead, drive, Old Irish ad -aig to drive, Sanskrit ajati (he) goes, drives

archaic : acting or exerting power — opposed to patient

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.