Printable Version
Pronunciation: ay-jên-si Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. An office or organization acting on behalf of others, providing a means to a particular end. 2. Intervention producing a means to a particular end, the capacity to exert power.

Notes: This word has two distinct meanings today, one physical, the other abstract. A 'detective agency' is quite different from 'free agency'. Both are derived from agent and are cousins of agenda, plural of agendum "thing to be done".

In Play: The first meaning can be captured like this: "Murphy had traveled so much, he quite naturally ended up owning a travel agency" (an office that acts to make travel arrangements for its clients). The other sense may be exemplified by: "Laws restrict the agency of individuals to only legal actions."

Word History: This word comes to us from French, which inherited it from Latin agentia "action, power", based on agen(t)s "effective, powerful", the present participle of agere "to do, act, drive, conduct, to set into motion". Latin inherited this word from PIE ag- "to drive, draw, move", also found in Sanskrit agmas "way, path", ancient Greek ogmos "furrow, swath" and German jagen "to chase, to hunt". The past participle of agere is actus, origin of English act, and the nouns actor "driver, mover" and actionis "putting into motion", the origins of English actor and action. (We are happy that through the agency of Normal Holler action was taken to recommend today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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