Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Ambassador Definition:

The highest ranked diplomat assigned to the sending state's embassy in another state, usually at the receiving state's capital city.

Related Terms: Citizenship, Diplomat, Consul

A citizen that has been officially asked by their country to live in another country in order to legally represent it.

Not a term formally recognized in international law - the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961) prefers "head of mission" - but routinely used by diplomats themselves to refer to the highest ranking officer of a state, sent to another as part of the sending state's diplomatic corps.

Wheaton's International Law:

"Ambassadors ... are exclusively entitled to what is called representative character, being considered as peculiarly representing the sovereign or State by whom they are delegated, and entitled to the same honours to which the constituent would be entitled qwere he personally present."

In an 1890 case of the United States Supreme Court, In re Baiz, these words were used by Chief Justice Fuller:

"(A)mbassadors, other public ministers and consuls ... these words are descriptive of a class existing by the law of nations, and apply to diplomatic agents whether accredited by the United States to a foreign power or by a foreign power to the United States.... These agents may be called ambassadors, envoys, ministers, commissioners, chargés d'affaires, agents, or otherwise, but they possess in substance the same functions, rights and privileges as agents of their respective governments for the transaction of its diplomatic business abroad. Their designations are chiefly significant in the relation of rank, precedence or dignity."

West's Encyclopedia of American Law offers this definition:

"An ambassador is the foreign diplomatic representative of a nation who is authorized to handle political negotiations between his or her country and the country where the ambassador has been assigned.... The powers of an ambassador are specified in his or her credentials, or documents of introduction, which the ambassador submits to the (receiving) foreign government."

Under Ambassadors & Consuls, 3A CJS §2:

"An ambassador is the foreign diplomatic representative of a sovereign state....

"An ambassador has been defined as an official representative sent by or to a sovereign or public body, an envoy or minister of state, or a public officer, clothed with high diplomatic powers, commissioned by a sovereign prince or state to transact the international business of his government at the court of the country to which he is sent."


  • In re Baiz, 135 US 403 (1890)
  • Keith. A. Berriedale, Wheaton's Elements of International Law, 6th Ed. (London: Stevens & Sons, 1929), Vol. 1, page445
  • West's Encyclopedia of American Law, 2nd Ed (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2004), Volume 1, page 242.

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