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


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

counsellor – a diplomatic title accorded to a head of a section in the embassy, such as "Counsellor for Political Affairs" or "Political Counsellor"


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 jurisdiction

diplomatic ranks – Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

Minister Plenipotentiary
Chargé d’ affaires ad hoc or pro tempore
Chargé d’ affaires ad interim
Counsellors (or Senior Secretaries in the absence of Counsellors)
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


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


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


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


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).


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


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


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.

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