Looking for a word for a body or group of people who are the initial/prominent cause of a change. For some reason my mind keeps going to angels in the bible? I think there may be a phrase used to describe angels as some kind of bringer forth of change or judgment. Unsure. The _____ of change.

Please help. My mind is drawing a blank and I've been googling for 15 minutes and have found nothing.

  • Got it guys, it was harbinger – Kate Mar 13 '19 at 5:07
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    A harbinger signals change; it does not bring forth change itself. – Benjamin Kuykendall Mar 13 '19 at 5:09
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    Not sure about the angels part, but there is "harbinger", which can mean something portending a future event, or "2a : one that initiates a major change : a person or thing that originates or helps open up a new activity, method, or technology : pioneer" The reason I brought this up is that Merriam-Webster has one definition of "angel" as "messenger" or "harbinger". – Zebrafish Mar 13 '19 at 5:10
  • Can I ask, why did you think of angels? I'm curious. I understand angels usually come to tell of an imminent event, but I don't see them as described in the definition I quoted in my comment, ie., one that initiates a major change. – Zebrafish Mar 13 '19 at 5:12

The word that comes to my mind is harbinger:

one that initiates a major change : a person or thing that originates or helps open up a new activity, method, or technology : PIONEER

It has a literary feel to it and was used (in the “messenger” sense) in at least one translation of the Bible.

  • Cambridge dictionary defines it other way around. Link – Ubi hatt Mar 13 '19 at 5:21
  • @ubihatt whilst your point is taken, it was not an accident that Tolkien had Gandalf called 'Storm crow' or blamed for those messages and portents he sought to spread knowledge of, nor is the existence of the phrase 'shoot the messenger.' Those examples yet don't cover the concept of predestination or prophecy, both of which characterize systems (and modes of thought) in which a harbinger is indeed a necessary actor between one state and another, being then equivalent in some view with an agent of change. – Giu Piete Mar 13 '19 at 18:55
  • further of course, (but to a different objection) one wasp's doom is another insect's wish fulfilment. – Giu Piete Mar 13 '19 at 18:57

I have always used the word catalyst:

2 : an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action
// That waterway became the catalyst of the area's industrialization.
// He was the catalyst in the native uprising.

In your sentence:

The catalyst of change.


You are probably searching for the word "herald". The word "harbinger" seems to carry a negative connotation.

They acted as a herald of change.


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