The procedure by which a nation becomes a party to an agreement
already in force between other nations.
International agreements originally thought to be for lesser
subjects than covered by treaties , but now really treaties by a
Ad Referendum :
An agreement reached ad referendum means an agreement reached by
negotiators at the table, subject to the subsequent concurrence
of their governments.
Adroit / Adroitness :
Cleverly skillful, resourceful, or ingenious; elegantly nimble in
thought or speech.
Diplomatic courtesy requires that before a state appoints a new
chief of diplomatic mission to represent it in another state, it
must be first ascertained whether the proposed appointee is
acceptable to the receiving state. The acquiescence of the
receiving state is signified by its granting its agrément
to the appointment. It is unusual for an agrément to be
refused, but it occasionally happens.
Aide Mémoire :
A written summary of the key points made by a diplomat in an
official conversation. Literally, a document left with the other
party to the conversation, either at the time of the conversation
or subsequently, as an aid to memory.
When an agreement is signed between two states, or among several
states, each signatory keeps an official copy for itself.
Alternat refers to the principle which provides that a state’s
own name will be listed ahead of the other signatory, or
signatories, in its own official copy. It is a practice devised
centuries ago to handle sensitivities over precedence.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary :
The chief of a diplomatic mission; the ranking official
diplomatic representative of his country to the country to which
he is accredited, and the personal representative of his own head
of state to the head of state of the host country. The term
extraordinary has no real meaning. Years ago it was
given only to nonresident ambassadors on temporary missions and
was used to distinguish them from regular resident ambassadors.
The latter resented others having this appellation, as it seemed
to imply a lesser position for themselves. Eventually therefore,
it was accorded to them as well. Plenipotentiary also
comes down through the years. Today it simply means possessed of
full power to do an ambassador’s normal job. Ambassador is
capitalized when referring to a specific person (i.e. Ambassador
An official who has been named to be an ambassador, but who has
not yet taken his oath of office.
A term often used to denote the wife of an ambassador, and
misused to denote a woman chief of mission. The latter is an
ambassador, not an ambassadress.
A special sign (marginal note) established in 1961 for
certifying foreign documents under the Hague Convention,
signatory countries have agreed to recognize public documents
issued by other signatory countries if those public documents are
authenticated by the attachment of an apostille. The
apostille ensures that public documents issued in one signatory
country will be recognized as valid in another signatory country.
Used in diplomacy to mean the giving of refuge in two senses:
first, within the extraterritorial grounds of an embassy (not
generally done in American embassies); and second, when one
states allows someone to live within its borders, out of reach of
the authority of a second state from which the person seeks
Civilian attachés are either junior officers in an embassy
or, if more senior, officers who have a professional
specialization such as labor attaché,
commercial attaché, cultural
attaché, etc. On the military side, an embassy will
generally have either an army attaché, naval
attaché, or air attaché – and often all
three. In American embassies, the senior of the three is called
the defense attaché and is in charge of all military
attaché activities. These consist largely of liaison work
with local military authorities and of keeping informed on the
host country order of battle.
Bag Day :
The day the diplomatic pouch is sealed and sent to the home
office. Hence, bag day is the day when all
non-telegraphic reporting must be finalized and dispatched.
Bag, The :
See Pouch. Bag is the British term. Bag Day is the day
the diplomatic pouch is sealed and sent to the home office.
Hence, bag day is the day when all non-telegraphic
reporting must be finalized and dispatched.
A state of belligerency is a state of armed conflict.
Belligerents are direct participants in the conflict.
Bilateral discussions or negotiations are between a state and one
other. A bilateral treaty is between one state and one other.
Multilateral is used when more than two states are
Black Tie / Black-Tie :
A stipulation that guests wear semiformal evening attire, being a
black bow tie worn with a dinner jacket or tuxedo by men; compare
Boiled Shirt :
A formal or semiformal dress shirt having long sleeves with
barrel or French cuffs, a stiffly starched front that's usually
pleated and fastened with studs, and a starched collar that's
adorned by a bow or necktie. [Cf: dickey, vestee]
Bout de Papier :
A very informal means of conveying written information; more
informal than an aide mémoire or a memorandum.
Breaking Relations :
The formal act of severing diplomatic relations with another
state to underscore disapproval of its actions or policies. It is
generally an unwise step, because when relations between states
are most strained is when the maintaining of diplomatic relations
is most important. It makes little sense to keep diplomats on the
scene when things are going relatively well and then take them
away when they are most needed. An intermediate step which
indicates serious displeasure but stops short of an actual
diplomatic break is for a government to recall its ambassador
indefinitely. This is preferable to a break in relations as his
embassy will continue to function; but again this comes under the
heading of cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face. If a dramatic
gesture of this kind is needed, it is far better promptly and
publicly to recall an ambassador for consultations, and then just
as promptly return him to his post.
An official seal, as on a letter or document; also known as a
signet, sigil, or chop, and derives from something compressed
to a small size.
Calls and Calling Cards :
Calling has largely disappeared from private life, but
it is a practice which is still useful in a diplomatic community
where the early establishment of extensive contacts is a must.
Soon after a diplomat’s arrival at a new post, therefore, he will
embark on a program of calling on those with whom he will be
dealing – and whom he must lose no time in getting to know.
In modern, less formal times, calling cards do not have nearly
the same role in diplomatic life they once did. But with the
traditional initials, p.p. (pour présenter); p.f. (pour
féliciter); p.c. (pour condoléance); p.r. (pour
remercier); or p.p.c. (pour prendre congé) inscribed at
their bottom left-hand corner, they remain a still useful and
accepted way to convey simple messages of presentation,
congratulation, condolence, thanks, and farewell.
A customs document allowing an automobile to be driven across
international borders at no cost.
A written agreement between belligerents, especially for the
exchange of prisoners. Such agreements have inspired the
formation of an alliance or syndicate, a combination or coalition
of special-interest groups having a common cause, such as when
establishing policies and regulating prices. Originating as a
letter of defiance (cartello), it has also been a
written challenge to a duel, the equivalent of throwing down
a gage. [Cf: gauntlet, gantlet]
Casus Belli :
An action by one state regarded as so contrary to the interests
of another state as to be considered by that second state as a
cause for war.
As in chancelleries of Europe, i.e. foreign offices.
The office where the chief of mission and his staff work. This
office is often called the embassy but this is a misnomer.
Technically, the embassy is where the ambassador lives, not where
he works, although in earlier times when diplomatic missions were
smaller, this was usually the same building. Today, for clarity's
sake, many diplomats now distinguish between the two by using the
terms embassy residence and embassy office.
Chancery, Head of :
An important position in British embassies not found in American
diplomatic establishments. An officer, usually head of the
political section, charged with coordinating the substantive and
administrative performance of the embassy. In an American
embassy, the ambassador looks to the deputy chief of mission to
Chargé d'Affaires, a.i. :
Formerly, a chargé d’affaires was the title of a chief of
mission, inferior in rank to an ambassador or a minister. Today
with the a.i. (ad interim) added, it designates the
senior officer taking charge for the interval when a chief of
mission is absent from his post.
Chief of Mission :
The ranking officer in an embassy, permanent mission, legation,
consulate general or consulate (i.e. an ambassador always, and a
minister, consul general, or consul when no more senior officer
is assigned to the post). A chief of mission can also be
the head of a special and temporary diplomatic mission, but the
term is usually reserved for the earlier listed examples.
A message or other document conveying a policy or an instruction
is cleared in a foreign office, or large embassy, when
all officials who have responsibility for any of its specific
aspects have signified their approval by initialing it. Some
officers gain a reputation for insisting on changing, even if
only in minor ways, everything that is placed before them –
and it is occasionally alleged they would do so even if it were
the Ten Commandments being presented to them. Conversely, others
are occasionally so casual that their clearance seems to mean
only that the document in question does not appear to take away
any of their jurisdiction. A clearance procedure in some form is
essential for adequate coordination, but when overdone (as it
often is), it can be a stifling, time-consuming process, and a
bane of diplomatic life.
A brief public summary statement issued following important
bilateral or multilateral meetings. These tend to be bland and
full of stock phrases such as full and frank
discussions, and the like. Occasionally, getting an
agreement on the communiqué turns out to be the most
difficult part of the meeting.
A formal document, executed in common by nations submitting a
dispute to arbitration, that defines the matter at issue, the
rules of procedure, the powers of the arbitral tribunal, and the
basis for determining the resolution and any award; as derived
from a referral in Roman civil law for an arbitrated decision.
An effort to achieve agreement and, hopefully, increased goodwill
between two opposed parties.
A treaty to which the Pope is a party.
In international law, joint sovereignty or concurrent dominion
over a territory by several states; the territory so dominated.
Conference / Congress :
International meetings. In the diplomatic sense, a congress has
the same meaning as a conference.
Officers performing consular duties are known as consuls or, if
more junior, vice consuls. The chief of the consulate is known as
the consul; while a bigger and more important consulate is
presided over by a consul-general.
Consular Agent :
An official doing consular work for a nation in a locality where
it does not maintain a regular consulate. This official is
usually a national of his host state, and his work is usually
An office established by one state in an important city of
another state for the purpose of supporting and protecting its
citizens traveling or residing there. In addition, these offices
are charged with performing other important administrative duties
such as issuing visas (where this is required) to host country
nationals wishing to travel to the country the consulate
represents. All consulates, whether located in the capital city
or in other communities, are administratively under the
ambassador and the embassy. In addition to carrying out their
consular duties, they often serve as branch offices for the
embassy, supporting, for example, the latter’s political and
economic responsibilities. Consulates are expected to play a
particularly significant role in connection with the promotion of
their own country’s exports and other commercial activities.
Officers performing consular duties are known as consuls or, if
more junior, vice consuls. The chief of the consulate is known as
Consulate General :
A bigger and more important consulate, presided over by a
Consul, Honorary :
A host-country national appointed by a foreign state to perform
limited consular functions in a locality where the appointing
state has no other consular representation.
An agreement between two or more states, often more, concerning
matters of common interest. While supposedly used for lesser
matters than embraced in a treaty, it often deals with important
subjects indeed – international postal and copyright laws,
for example, of the law of the sea.
Counselor of Embassy :
A senior diplomatic title ranking just behind an ambassador and a
minister. In many embassies there is no minister, and the
counselor is the number two man, i.e., the deputy chief of
mission. (In a very small embassy, the second may not have this
rank). In a large embassy, the second ranking officer may be a
minister, or minister-counselor, in which case the heads of the
more important sections have counselor rank. Thus, for example,
the embassy’s political counselor, economic counselor, an
administrative counselor are well-known and much-respected
positions in diplomatic life.
Country Desk :
State departments and foreign offices generally have an office
for each country with which they have active dealings. These
offices are often called country desks, and if a large country is
involved and there is a large embassy to support there, the desk
is likely to be staffed by a large number of officers. A smaller
country may require a one-officer desk only.
Country Team :
An American diplomatic term meaning the ambassador’s cabinet. It
consists of his deputy chief of mission, heads of all important
embassy sections, and the chiefs of all other elements (military,
agricultural, aid, information, and cultural, etc.) working under
him in the embassy community.
The name for letters given to an ambassador by his chief of
state, and addressed to the chief of state of his host country.
They are delivered to the latter by ambassadors in a formal
credentials ceremony, which generally takes place shortly after
his arrival at a new post. Until this ceremony has taken place he
is not formally recognized by the host country, and he cannot
officially act as an ambassador. The letters are termed
letters of credence because they request the receiving
chief of state to give full credence to what the
ambassador will say on behalf of his government.
Embassy shorthand for the deputy chief of mission.
This can have two quite distinct meanings in diplomacy. It can
first, of course, mean a unilateral statement by one state,
ranging from an expression of opinion or policy to a declaration
of war. It can also mean a joint statement by two or more states
having the same binding effect as a treaty. In this latter
connection declarations can be put forward either in their own
right or appended to a treaty as an added understanding or
Delegate / Delegatee :
A person designated to act for another or to represent others, as
someone appointed to be the functional deputy or empowered agent;
which term derives from assign. Also, formerly the
political representative of a Territory in the U.S. House of
Again used in two senses in diplomacy. Delegation can be
the term used to refer to the specific powers delegated by his
government to a diplomat acting in certain specific
circumstances. It also refers to an official party sent to an
international conference or on some other special diplomatic
Démarche / Demarché :
An approach, a making of representations. Still very common term
used by diplomats to indicate the official raising of a matter
with host country officials, often accompanied by a specific
request for some type of action or decision in connection with
it, especially when involving a change of course.
An easing of tension between states.
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 Corps :
The body of foreign diplomats assembled at a nation’s capital. In
cities where consuls and consul general are resident, the are
collectively known as the consular corps. The dean of both corps
is usually that official who had been at his post the longest.
There are exceptions to this later rule, however. For example, in
some Catholic countries, the papal nuncio is always the dean. The
dean represents the corps in collective dealings with host
country officials on matters of a ceremonial or administrative
character affecting the corps as a whole.
Diplomatic Illness :
The practice of feigning illness to avoid participation in a
diplomatic event of one kind or another and at the same time to
avoid giving formal offense. Diplomatic deafness is a
somewhat related concept whereby older diplomats allegedly turn
this infirmity to advantage by not hearing what they prefer not
Diplomatic Immunity :
Exemption of foreign diplomatic agents or representatives from
local jurisdiction. Also see Diplomatic Privileges and
Diplomatic Note :
A formal written means of communication among embassies.
Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities :
Historically accorded in recognition that the diplomat represents
(and is responsible to) a different sovereignty; also in order
that the legitimate pursuit of his official duties will not be
impeded in any unnecessary way. They include inviolability of
person and premises and exemption from taxation and the civil and
criminal jurisdiction of local courts. Also see Diplomatic
Diplomatic Ranks :
Listed in order of precedence:
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Chargé d'Affaires ad hoc or pro tempore
Chargé d'Affaires ad interim
Counselors (or Senior Secretaries in the absence of
Army, Naval and Air Attachés
Assistant Army, Naval and Air Attachés
Civilian Assistant Attachés
Third Secretaries and Assistant Attachés
It has the same meaning as diplomat. An outdated word
rarely used now in spoken diplomacy but occasionally still
appearing in the literature of diplomacy.
A written, as opposed to a telegraphic, message from an embassy
to its home office or vice versa.
Dual Accreditation :
Having two or more responsibilities, such as an ambassador who is
simultaneously accredited to two nations.
Economic Officer :
A career diplomat who specialized in economics rather than
political, administrative, or other matters.
The residence of an ambassador. In recent years, also
inaccurately used to denote the building which contains the
offices of the ambassador and other key members of his staff. The
proper term for the latter, as noted above, is the
chancery. As also noted above, confusion is nowadays
avoided through the practice of using the two terms embassy
residence and embassy office.
A representative sent forth on a mission or errand. Also, an
agent sent on a mission of a secretive nature.
To issue something formally, including paper money. Also, to send
forth, expel, or discharge something. Also, to utter a sound or
to voice something.
Denotes a close understanding between certain nations. It
suggests mutual and complementary efforts, and a sense of
compatible objectives. It can be agreed on orally or in writing,
but as a concept is generally less binding than a treaty
Entente Cordiale :
An alliance of political powers agreeing to informally adhere to
a particular policy in international affairs; being a friendly
understanding between nations.
Nowadays used to refer to any senior diplomat. Earlier it had a
specific hierarchical connotation, being used to designate
diplomatic agents of less than the highest rank.
An official who attends a head of state, or other royalty; as
derived from squire, being one who's charged with the
care of the horses.
An archaic but still much-used title for addressing an
ambassador. Theoretically, an American ambassador is not supposed
to be addressed this way, but he generally is – along with
all his other ambassadorial colleagues. Mister
Ambassador is more accurate and less silly. That he is; he
may or may not be excellent.
Exchange of Notes :
A common way of recording an agreement. The contents of the notes
are, of course, agreed upon in advance by the two nations
participating in the exchange.
A document issued to a consul by the host country government
authorizing him to carry out his consular duties.
Ex Gracia :
Something which is done as a gesture of good will and not on the
basis of an accepted legal obligation.
The term for the process, governed by formally concluded
agreements, by which fugitives fleeing justice from one country
are returned from the country where they have sought refuge. It
does not apply to political offenses.
The exercise by one nation, as a result of formally concluded
agreements, of certain sovereign functions within the territory
of another state. A curtailment of the jurisdiction of the latter
state in certain specified areas and/or in certain specified
Final Act (Acte Final) :
A formal summary statement, drawn up at the conclusion of a
Skill in handling a difficult or highly sensitive situation;
adroit and artful management. Also, an adroit trick, artifice, or
stratagem; a subtle ruse.
Foggy Bottom :
The name given to a once marsh like area near Washington’s
Potomac River, and now somewhat irreverently bequeathed to the
U.S. Department of State, one of that area’s best-known modern
Foreign Affairs Community :
An American government term used to denote the State Department
and other government departments and agencies (Defense, Commerce,
Agriculture, Treasury, U.S. Information Agency, the Central
Intelligence Agency, the Agency for International Development,
etc.) which have special interests and responsibilities in the
foreign affairs field.
Shorthand for a career American diplomat, i.e., an American
Foreign Service officer.
Full Powers :
A document which authorizes a diplomat to conduct and consummate
special business on behalf of his government, such as the
settlement of a dispute or the negotiation and signing of a
treaty. Before signing a treaty, a diplomat is obligated to show
his full-powers document to the other parties involved.
Good Offices :
An effort by a third state, or by an individual or an
international body, designed to stimulate the processes of
settlement in a dispute between two other states.
Goodwill Ambassador :
A person, typically notable or eminent, who's appointed to
promote a beneficial program or benevolent mission, as an
unofficial emissary between established organizations or a
credentialed envoy between sovereign states; an honorific title
(usually with a Letter of Presentation or Letter of Credence) for
someone designated to promote goodwill or act as intermediary
from one entity to another, as in an international friendship
mission or humanitarian colloquy, including multilateral and
non-profit corporations, governmental and non-governmental
Gray Eminence :
A person who wields unofficial power, often surreptitiously or
privately, especially through another person; as a literal
translation of éminence grise from the French.
Guarantee, Treaty of :
A treaty which requires signatories to guarantee that situations
agreed upon will be maintained. The honoring of such commitments
can precipitate armed conflicts.
High Commission :
A diplomatic mission of one Commonwealth country in another. For
example, Canada has a High Commission in Canberra, Australia.
High Commissioner :
The chief of a high commission. Similar to what an ambassador is
to an embassy.
A permit allowing passage; a pass or Passport.
An envoy or emissary; originating in ancient Rome as an assistant
to a consul or magistrate, who's delegated to the government of
any province, then later, a provincial governor of senatorial
rank appointed by the emperor. Also, originating in ancient Rome
as a deputy to a general, who's delegated as an administrator of
the army, then later, a commander of a legion. [Cf: legatee]
These are rare now, but they were once very common. A legation is
a diplomatic mission similar for most practical purposes to an
embassy, but lower in rank, and presided over by a minister
rather than an ambassador. For most of the last century, American
diplomatic representation abroad was limited to legations, and
for much of this century, the U.S. was represented in more
countries by legations than it was by embassies.
Letters of Credence :
Letters of Recall :
Also presented by a new ambassador, along with his letter of
credence, to the chief of state of his host country during his
credentials-presentation ceremony. It is the official document
which formally recalls his predecessor.
Minister / Minister-Counselor :
Apart from its cabinet-officer connotation (i.e. foreign
minister), a minister has traditionally been a chief of
diplomatic mission who headed a legation rather than an embassy.
As so few legations are left, the title is now borrowed more and
more to designate the second-ranking officer of a large embassy.
It has, therefore, come increasingly to mean the senior counselor
under the ambassador. To avoid confusion with the old
connotation, the United States and a number of governments
designate these senior deputy chiefs of mission by the hyphenated
A generic term for embassy. Mission also describes the entirety
of official representation in a given foreign country which
functions under the supervision of the Ambassador, including
civilian and military personnel.
Modus Vivendi :
A temporary agreement, in writing, of an interim character,
pending the negotiation of more definitive arrangements.
Discussions or negotiations when more than two states are
A formal diplomatic or official communication sent in writing
between embassies or states; also known as a Diplomatic Note.
Note Verbale :
a diplomatic communication prepared in the third person and
unsigned; Notes Verbales are less formal than a Note but more
formal than an Aide Mémoire.
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.
Used in written social correspondence, pour condoler (to
Used in written social correspondence, pour
féliciter (to extend congratulations).
A diplomatic agent invested with full power or complete
authority, as for conducting or transacting business on behalf of
another; a commission conferred with absolute power.
Used in written social correspondence, pour memoire (to
A sealed mailbag containing diplomatic correspondence that is
sent free of inspection between a foreign office and its consular
post abroad, or from one such post to another. Bag is
the British term. Bag Day is the day when all
non-telegraphic reporting must be finalized and dispatched.
Used in written social correspondence, pour
présenter (to introduce).
Used in written social correspondence, pour prendre
congé (to say goodbye).
Used in written social correspondence, pour remercier
(to express thanks).
Persona Non Grata :
An individual who is unacceptable to or unwelcome by the host
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
Refers to the ceremonial side of diplomacy, including matters of
diplomatic courtesy and precedence. Also see Diplomatic Protocol.
Another name for an agreement. Originally a protocol was
considered a somewhat less formal document than a treaty, but
that is a distinction no longer valid. A protocol may be an
agreement in its own right. It also may constitute added sections
which clarify or alter an agreement, or it may be used to add new
subjects of agreement to the original document.
The official of a committee or subcommittee whose job is to
prepare a summary report of its discussions and conclusions.
The establishment of improved relations.
The act, subsequent to a treaty’s having been negotiated, by
which a government commits itself to adhere to that treaty. In
the United States, it is inaccurate to speak of the Senate’s
ratifying a treaty. The executive does this, but only after the
Senate has given its consent.
Commonly used in connection with the recognition by one state of
1) the existence of another state (for example when a new one is
formed), or 2) the existence of a government which is in
effective control of a state. The term de facto
recognition means recognition that a state, or a government
of a state, in fact exists – but it also means the
withholding of full official recognition of this. When the latter
is extended, it is termed de jure recognition. It is a
distinction based more on diplomatic convenience than on logic.
The expulsion of an alien from the country by its government,
especially a foreign diplomat, as to send back an envoy.
A diplomatic official who assists an ambassador or minister; as
derived from a confidant who can be entrusted with secrets. Also,
a government official who's charged with the superintendence and
management of a particular department of the executive branch,
having been appointed and confirmed as a member of the
president's cabinet within the American bureaucracy.
Seventh Floor :
Shorthand for the most senior leadership of the U.S. State
Department. It is where the offices of the Secretary of State and
his most senior aides are located.
A diplomat whose assignment at a foreign post is nearing its
close. A phrase borrowed from the military.
Sixth Floor :
Where many of the U.S. State Department's regional and other
assistant secretaries have their offices. Shorthand for the
assistant secretary level of the department's leadership.
Stuffed Shirt :
An Americanism for a pompous, self-satisfied, and inflexible
person; based upon the boiled dress shirt that causes the wearer
to act stiff and awkward.
Shorthand for a temporary duty assignment.
Tour D’Horizon :
A diplomatic discussion covering most (or at least a number of )
subjects of current and common concern.
A formal mutually binding agreement between countries. The term
comes from traiter, to negotiate.
A last statement indicating a final position. On occasion a
prelude to the initiation of military action.
Unfriendly Act :
A term used when one government wishes to tell another that an
action the latter has taken is regarded as so serious that it
might lead to a military action against it. An action which risks
Vice Consul :
A junior ranking consular officer.
Written authority to enter a country for either temporary or
permanent residence, depending on its wording; by shortening of
carta visa, an official endorsement made to a passport
that permits the bearer to enter a country.
White Tie / White-Tie :
A stipulation that guests wear formal evening attire, being a
white bow tie worn with formal evening dress by men; compare