Definition of plenipotentiary
1 : invested with full power
2 : of or relating to a plenipotentiary
Did You Know?
The adjective plenipotentiary is typically used, as in our second example, after the noun it modifies in the ranking of diplomatic hierarchy. Plenipotentiary gets its power from its Latin roots: plenus, meaning "full," and potens, "powerful." When government leaders dispatch their ambassador plenipotentiary, minister plenipotentiary, or envoy plenipotentiary, they are not just sending an agent to deal with foreign affairs but one having full power to act on the behalf of his or her country and government. The word extraordinary is also found in titles of government representatives-sometimes in combination with plenipotentiary (as in "Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary")-to denote an agent assigned to a particular (or extraordinary) diplomatic mission. Both the adjective and the noun plenipotentiary (meaning "a person invested with full power to transact business") appeared in the mid-17th century.
Origin and Etymology of plenipotentiary
Medieval Latin plenipotentiarius, adjective & noun, from Late Latin plenipotent-, plenipotens
First Known Use: circa 1645
Simple Definition of plenipotentiary
: a person (such as a diplomat) who has complete power to do business for a government
Full Definition of plenipotentiaryplural
: a person and especially a diplomatic agent invested with full power to transact business
First Known Use of plenipotentiary
Learn More about plenipotentiary
Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about plenipotentiary
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up plenipotentiary? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).