A Dictionary of Diplomatic Terminology Currently in Circulation



agrément – the host government’s acceptance of the nomination of an ambassador to the country

ambassador-designate – a diplomatic agent who has been designated by the President as his/her choice as personal representative but who has not yet been confirmed by the Senate and who has not taken the oath of office (U.S. only)

ambassador – an official envoy or diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government as the official resident representative of his own government; or an official appointed for a special, often temporary, diplomatic assignment

ambassador at large – an ambassador whose portfolio addresses specific issues rather than one specific country

ambassador extraordinaire and plenipotentiary – a diplomatic agent who is the personal representative of the head of one state accredited to the head of another

attaché – a civilian or military technical expert or specialist on the mission

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chancery – the embassy office building

chargé d’ affaires – a diplomatic agent accredited by letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Secretary of State of one country by his/her counterpart in lieu of a duly accredited ambassador

chargé d’ affaires ad interim – also referred to as chargé; a subordinate diplomat who substitutes for an ambassador or minister in his/her absence

chief of mission – principal officer of an overseas mission, with the title of Ambassador, Minister, or Chargé d’ affaires.

consul – a consular officer of the highest rank; senior official at the consulate general

consular agent – individuals who perform limited consular functions in cities where there is no mission

consulate – a constituent or subordinate post; also the office of the consul and his/her staff

consulate general – a large constituent or subordinate post

counselor – a diplomatic title accorded to a head of a section in the embassy, suchas “Counselor for Political Affairs” or “Political Counselor”

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demarche – a request or intercession with a foreign official, e.g., a request for support of a policy, or a protest about the host government’s policy or actions

deputy chief of mission (DCM) – the second in command at an embassy who becomes the chargé d’ affaires in the ambassador’s absence

diplomatic agent – a generic term denoting a person who carries out regular diplomatic relations of the nation he/she represents in the nation to which he/she has been accredited

diplomatic note – a formal written means of communication among embassies

diplomatic corps – the collective heads of foreign diplomatic missions and their staff members

diplomatic immunity – exemption of foreign diplomatic agents or representatives from local jurisdicition

diplomatic ranks – Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

  • Minister Plenipotentiary
  • Ministers
  • Chargé d’ affaires ad hoc or pro tempore
  • Chargé d’ affaires ad interim
  • Minister-Counselors
  • Counselors (or Senior Secretaries in the absence of Counselors)
  • Army, Naval and Air Attaches
  • Civilian Attaches
  • First Secretaries
  • Second Secretaries
  • Assistant Army, Naval and Air Attaches
  • Civilian Assistant Attaches
  • Third Secretaries and Assistant Attaches

Dual accreditation – having two or more responsibilities, such as an ambassador who is simultaneously accredited to two nations

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Embassy – a diplomatic mission in the capital city of a foreign country headed by an ambassador

Exequatur – written, official recognition of a consular officer issued by the government to which one is accredited

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Interest section – the office responsible for protecting the interests of the US, housed in a third country embassy, in a country which the US has no formal diplomatic relations

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Legation – a diplomatic mission in a foreign country headed by a minister. The US has none at present, but a few other countries do

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Mission – a generic term for embassy. Mission also describes the entirety of official US representation in a given foreign country, which functions under the supervision of the ambassador, including civilian and military personnel (except US military reporting to a unified command and official US representation to a multilateral organization).

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Passport – the official document issued to a person by his/her government certifying citizenship and requesting foreign governments to grant the individual safe passage, lawful aid and protection while under that government’s jurisdiction

p.c. – used in written social correspondence, “pour condoler” (to express sympathy)

p.f. – used in written social correspondence, “pour feliciter” (to extend congratulations)

p.m. – used in written social correspondence, “pour memoire” (to remind)

p.p. – used in written social correspondence, “pour presenter” (to introduce)

p.p.c. – used in written social correspondence, “pou prendre conge” (to say goodbye)

p.r. – used in written social correspondence, “pour remercier” (to express thanks)

persona non grata – an individual who is unacceptable to or unwelcome by the host government

precedence – priority; the right to superior honor on a ceremonial or formal occasion; for ambassadors in a country, precedence is determined by the order in which they presented their credentials to the host government

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secretary (third, second, first) – diplomatic rank of officers posted overseas, in ascending order of seniority

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Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations – UN convention, adopted in 1961, formalizing the rights and privileges of diplomatic agents.

vice-consul – a junior ranking consular officer

visa – a seal or endorsement made on a passport by the proper officials of a country which entitles the bearer to apply for entry into another country at the port of admission.

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Overseas Breifing Center, Foreign Service Institute. Protocol for the Modern Diplomat.
US Department of State: Washington, DC.