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See more synonyms for agitator on Thesaurus.com
  1. a person who stirs up others in order to upset the status quo and further a political, social, or other cause: The boss said he would fire any union agitators.
  2. a machine or device for agitating and mixing.
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Origin of agitator

First recorded in 1730–40; agitate + -or2
Related formsag·i·ta·to·ri·al [aj-i-tuh-tawr-ee-uh l, -tohr-] /ˌædʒ ɪ təˈtɔr i əl, -ˈtoʊr-/, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for agitator

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • To think the mother was afraid he would turn out an agitator!

  • You'd never dream that he was an agitator or that he'd want to lead a rebellion.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine

  • He understands the Irish agitator, but the English Separatist beats him.

    Ireland as It Is

    Robert John Buckley (AKA R.J.B.)

  • Since he was a boy firing a locomotive engine, he has been an agitator.

    The Debs Decision

    Scott Nearing

  • This is hardly the tone of the agitator as known to us to-day.

    Victorian Worthies

    George Henry Blore

British Dictionary definitions for agitator


  1. a person who agitates for or against a cause, etc
  2. a device, machine, or part used for mixing, shaking, or vibrating a material, usually a fluid
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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

Word Origin and History for agitator


1640s, agent noun from agitate (v.); originally "elected representative of the common soldiers in Cromwell's army," who brought grievances (chiefly over lack of pay) to their officers and Parliament.

Political sense is first recorded 1734, and negative overtones began with its association with Irish patriots such as Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847). Historically, in American English, often with outside and referring to people who stir up a supposedly contented class or race. Latin agitator meant "a driver, a charioteer."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper