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[ag-it] /ˈæg ɪt/
a variegated chalcedony showing curved, colored bands or other markings.
a playing marble made of this substance, or of glass in imitation of it.
Printing. a 5½-point type of a size between pearl and nonpareil.
Compare ruby (def 6).
Origin of agate
1150-1200; Middle English ac(c)ate, achate, agaten (compare Dutch agaat, Old Saxon agāt, Old High German agat), apparently < Old French agathe or Italian agata (initial stress) ≪ Medieval Latin achātēs < Greek achā́tēs
Related forms
agatelike, agatoid, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for agate
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • His child-like face, with the soft, agate eyes, expressed only bewilderment.

    The Martian Cabal Roman Frederick Starzl
  • Some of the bracelets are furnished with studs set with agate or coral.

  • The cup in which it spins is made of agate flint, or other hard substance.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • And this some seers have professed to be the virtue of a stone of agate.

    Zanoni Edward Bulwer Lytton
  • Suddenly all is light and life and flight, Upon the sandy bottom, agate strewn.

    Silverpoints John Gray
British Dictionary definitions for agate


an impure microcrystalline form of quartz consisting of a variegated, usually banded chalcedony, used as a gemstone and in making pestles and mortars, burnishers, and polishers. Formula: SiO2
a playing marble of this quartz or resembling it
(printing, US & Canadian) Also called ruby. (formerly) a size of printer's type approximately equal to 51/2 point
Word Origin
C16: via French from Latin achātēs, from Greek akhatēs


(Northern English, dialect) on the way
Word Origin
C16: a-² + gate³


James (Evershed). 1877–1947, British theatre critic; drama critic for The Sunday Times (1923–47) and author of a nine-volume diary Ego (1935–49)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for agate

1560s, from Middle French agathe (16c.), from Latin achates, from Greek akhates, the name of a river in Sicily where the stones were found (Pliny). But the river could as easily be named for the stone.

The earlier English form of the word, achate (early 13c.), was directly from Latin. Figurative sense of "a diminutive person" (c.1600) is from the now-obsolete meaning "small figures cut in agates for seals," preserved in typographer's agate (1838), the U.S. name of the 5.5-point font called in Great Britain ruby. Meaning "toy marble made of glass resembling agate" is from 1843 (colloquially called an aggie).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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agate in Science
A type of very fine-grained quartz found in various colors that are arranged in bands or in cloudy patterns. The bands form when water rich with silica enters empty spaces in rock, after which the silica comes out of solution and forms crystals, gradually filling the spaces from the outside inward. The different colors are the result of various impurities in the water.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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