Learn to Speak the Language of Diplomacy

The world of diplomacy is full of unique terminology. The Diplomatic Encyclopedia defines some of these key terms, people, places, and practices so you can better understand how diplomacy works.

Consul General Francis Terry McNamara (behind the two armed guards) captains a barge of American and Vietnamese refugees out of Cần Thơ.



A person who is forced to leave their country due to conflict, persecution, or natural disaster and has crossed an international border in order to find safety in another country.

When Saigon fell in 1975, the rest of South Vietnam was also evacuating as quickly as possible. Approximately 100 miles away in Cần Thơ, Consul General Francis Terry McNamara saved hundreds of Vietnamese refugees by devising and leading a risky evacuation. Photo courtesy of the National Museum of American Diplomacy. 

Learn More About the Fall of Saigon
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    The procedure by which a nation becomes a party to an agreement already in force between other nations.

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    Another word for treaties. Originally referred to international agreements thought to be for lesser subjects than those covered by treaties.

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    The host government's acceptance of the nomination of an ambassador to the country

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    A union formed for mutual benefit by two or more states to engage in cooperative action in specified circumstances

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    The chief of a diplomatic mission; the ranking official diplomatic representative of a country to the country to which s/he is appointed, and the personal representative of his/her own head of state to the head of state of the host country. Ambassador is capitalized when referring to a specific person (i.e., Ambassador Smith)

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    Ambassador extraordinaire and plenipotentiary

    A diplomatic agent who is the personal representative of the head of one state accredited to the head of another state

  • Places

    American Institute in Taiwan

    In 1979, the United States changed its diplomatic recognition of China from Taipei to Beijing. In the U.S.-People’s Republic of China Joint Communique that announced…

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    American Presence Posts (APP)

    A special purpose overseas post with limited staffing and responsibilities, established as a consulate under the Vienna Convention. APPs are located cities outside the capital that are important but do not host a U.S. consulate. Typically these posts do not have any consular services on site, so the APP’s activities are limited or narrowly focused on priorities such as public outreach, business facilitation, and issue advocacy. Examples of American Presence Posts include: Bordeaux, France; Winnipeg, Canada; Medan, Indonesia and Busan, Korea.

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    The formal act of a state incorporating conquered foreign territory into its own jurisdiction. It is the forcible acquisition of a territory by one state at the expense of another done by either a unilateral declaration and the conquering of the territory or by the conclusion of a treaty.

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    An agreement made by opposing sides in a war to suspend hostilities for a certain time