Secret agent man. That’s what comes to my mind when I hear the word agent. Maybe I watched too many of the early James Bond movies (I lost interest in the Bond franchise as I got older). Although, I probably relate more to Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, than to 007.
Of course, not all agents are secret agents. Anyone who acts on behalf of someone else is that person’s agent. The more well known types of agents are real estate agents, talent agents, sports agents, literary agents and business agents.
Far from being secret agents, most of them would like their names to be known far and wide, particularly among prospective clients. And few of those agents have licenses to kill, so they’d better not piss off the 007 type of agent.
An agent might not be someone acting on behalf of someone else. It could also be someone causing or working to effect a particular outcome. For example, an agent of change makes change happen or, at very least, tries very hard to do so and has a modicum of success.
If everyone is exceptionally happy with the status quo then an agent of change is also known as a damned bastard.
There is yet another type of agent. This one is not human, although its meaning is related to the “someone causing or working to effect a particular outcome” sense of agent.
An agent can also be a substance that is chemically, physically or biologically active, thereby causing a change in itself or in a substance with which it interacts. A bleaching agent is an example of this. It might cause your red clothes to become pink, although that’s usually not its intended purpose.