The Latin adjective is derived from diplōmat-, the inflectional stem of diplōma, which has several technical meanings: “an official letter of recommendation; a certificate or license granting a privilege; a folded tablet or paper carrying an official’s instructions to allow the bearer to have free passage and assistance.”
The journey from an adjective relating to the science of analyzing documents (which in English is known as diplomatics ) to one pertaining to the art of international relations ( diplomacy ) is a fascinating one. Díplōma is a derivative of the verb diploûn “to repeat, multiply by two, repay twofold.” Diploûn is a compound of the prefix di- “two, twice, double,” a variant of the adverb dís “twice.” The original Greek word díplōma from which the Latin diplōmaticus comes meant “a piece of paper folded in two,” and in Roman imperial times, “an order allowing the bearer to use the imperial transportation system; a passport.”
Diploma in English retains the sense of a piece of paper, one that we receive (often rolled, not folded) when we graduate, formally granting an academic degree. A less well-known sense of diploma is “a public or official document.” The earliest meanings of diplomatic in English referred first to the scientific analysis of these documents, then to the documents themselves, and, at a tempestuous historical moment, the word becomes forever associated with the activities surrounding the documents.
In the 18th century, French writer and historian Jean Dumont published Corps universel diplomatique du droit des gens, containing the original texts of the treaties of Alliance, of Peace, and of Commerce, from the Peace of Munster to 1709. This was a collection of documents as the title indicates, and the term corps diplomatique at first referred to the body of documents but over time underwent a meaning transfer to the subject matter of the documents themselves, international relations.
By 1789, we can find the term used in English but with the French spelling diplomatique. Edmund Burke, in his best-selling Reflections on the Revolution in France, popularizes the shift by using corps diplomatique in this novel way: “The Prussian ministers in foreign courts have … talked the most democratick language …. The whole corps diplomatique, with very few exceptions, leans that way.” Here, the term is applied to the ambassadors and officials making up the diplomatic body, that is, the group of ministers engaged in diplomacy and international relations (and not the body of documents collecting itself into piles to be examined). Soon after, the French spelling is dropped in favor of the Anglicized diplomatic, but the French connection remains.
- dip·lo·mat·i·cal·ly, adverb
- non·dip·lo·mat·ic, adjective
- pre·dip·lo·mat·ic, adjective
- qua·si-dip·lo·mat·ic, adjective
- un·dip·lo·mat·ic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024
How to use diplomatic in a sentence
However the talks which led to the joint statement on establishing full diplomatic relations took just 29 days.Behind the scenes of the U.S.-brokered Israel-Bahrain agreement | Barak Ravid | September 11, 2020 | Axios
The United States normalizes diplomatic relations with China.A brief history of US-China espionage entanglements | Konstantin Kakaes | September 3, 2020 | MIT Technology Review
On Monday, Kushner told reporters that establishing diplomatic ties with Israel was in Saudi Arabia’s interests, even though such public comments only discomfit Riyadh.Butterfly Effect: In a Trump 2.0, MBZ Could Be the New MBS | Charu Kasturi | August 20, 2020 | Ozy
Since then, an internal struggle has been under way for control of the country — a struggle that has turned into a proxy war involving Russia and Turkey, with military, financial or diplomatic support divided among at least seven other countries.
Among these campaigns, the Sixth Crusade is noteworthy because it actually allowed the namesake Kingdom of Jerusalem to retain control of significant parts of Jerusalem for 15 years through diplomatic efforts, as opposed to military successes.History of the Crusades: Origins, Politics, and Crusaders | Dattatreya Mandal | March 23, 2020 | Realm of History
“People are generally diplomatic,” says Steinbrick of regulars dealing with the surge of new faces.
Fred Logevall at Cornell won the Pulitzer Prize and is a diplomatic historian; he just started a book on Kennedy.
Right now it looks like the diplomatic equivalent of one hand clapping.
President Obama defends his decision to normalize ties with Cuba and defends his diplomatic record.
Given the potential for a cyber tit-for-tat to escalate, Obama has even more incentive to find a diplomatic solution.
Uncle David had none of that small diplomatic genius that helps to make a good attorney.Checkmate | Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
The box of the diplomatic corps was just opposite us, and our gay little Mrs. F. sat in it dressed in white satin.Music-Study in Germany | Amy Fay
The diplomatic section shall negotiate with the foreign cabinets the recognition of belligerency and Philippine independence.The Philippine Islands | John Foreman
This pretty, resolute, sharp girl had suddenly become an important piece in the great game of diplomatic chess.The Weight of the Crown | Fred M. White
The different motions or interferences of the members of the diplomatic body scarcely concern this period.Journal of a Voyage to Brazil | Maria Graham
British Dictionary definitions for diplomatic
of or relating to diplomacy or diplomats
skilled in negotiating, esp between states or people
tactful in dealing with people
of or relating to diplomatics
- diplomatically, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012