Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A fine-grained, fibrous variety of chalcedony with colored bands or irregular clouding.
  • n. Games A playing marble made of agate or a glass imitation of it; an aggie.
  • n. A tool with agate parts, such as a burnisher tipped with agate.
  • n. Printing A type size, approximately 5 1/2 points.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adv. On the way; agoing; as, to be agate; to set the bells agate.
  • n. A semi-pellucid, uncrystallized variety of quartz, presenting various tints in the same specimen, with colors delicately arranged in stripes or bands, or blended in clouds.
  • n. A kind of type, larger than pearl and smaller than nonpareil; in England called ruby.
  • n. A diminutive person; so called in allusion to the small figures cut in agate for rings and seals.
  • n. A tool used by gold-wire drawers, bookbinders, etc.;—so called from the agate fixed in it for burnishing.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adv. On the way; agoing
  • n. A semipellucid, uncrystallized variety of quartz, presenting various tints in the same specimen. Its colors are delicately arranged in stripes or bands, or blended in clouds.
  • n. A kind of type, larger than pearl and smaller than nonpareil; in England called ruby.
  • n. A diminutive person; so called in allusion to the small figures cut in agate for rings and seals.
  • n. A tool used by gold-wire drawers, bookbinders, etc.; -- so called from the agate fixed in it for burnishing.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • On the way; going; agoing; in motion: as, “set him agate again,” Lingua, iii. 6; “set the bells agate,” Cotgrave.
  • n. A variety of quartz which is peculiar in consisting of bands or layers of various colors blended together.
  • n. A draw-plate used by gold-wire drawers, named from the piece of agate through which the eye is drilled.
  • n. In printing, type of a size between pearl and nonpareil, giving about 160 lines to the foot. It is used chiefly in newspapers. In Great Britain it is known as ruby.
  • n. This line is printed in agate.
  • n. An instrument used by bookbinders for polishing; a burnisher.
  • n. A child's playing-marble made of agate, or of glass in imitation of agate.
  • n. Nautical, the jewel cup in the center of the compass-card, which rests upon the upright pivot in the center of the compass-bowl.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. an impure form of quartz consisting of banded chalcedony; used as a gemstone and for making mortars and pestles

Etymologies

Middle English achate, agaten, from Old French acate, agate, alteration (influenced by Greek agathē, good) of Latin achātēs, from Greek akhātēs.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle French agathe, from Latin achatēs, from Ancient Greek ἀχάτης (akhatēs, "agate"). (Wiktionary)
a- (“on”) +‎ gate (“way”) (Wiktionary)

Examples

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Comments

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  • Oh, cool. I knew that agate is a printing term having to do with type size, but the CD&C also tells us that agates are used (especially by bookbinders) as burnishers. Is that where the printing term came from?

    Also, I like the bit about Shakespeare: "In Shakspere agate is a symbol of littleness or smallness, from the little figures cut in these stones when set in rings."

    January 30, 2012

  • "It is the tragedy of other people that they are merely showcases for the very perishable collections of one's own mind. For this very reason one bases upon them projects which have all the fervour of thought; but thought languishes and memory decays: the day would come when I would readily admit the first comer to Albertine's room, as I had without the slightest regret given Albertine the agate marble or other gifts that I had received from Gilberte."
    --The Captive & The Fugitive by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, revised by D.J. Enright, pp 751-752 of the Modern Library paperback edition

    February 18, 2010

  • In newspaperish, also very small type, such as is used for sports-page box scores and the like.

    (Can I just remark upon how much I like the phrase "such as is"? Very satisfying to say. One of the few uses of "such as" that doesn't make my skin crawl.)

    June 13, 2008