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  • plenipotentiary
  • audio pronunciation
  • \plen-uh-puh-TEN-shuh-ree\
  • DEFINITION

adjective

1
: invested with full power
2
: of or relating to a person invested with full power to transact any business
  • EXAMPLES

"The generalissimo assured his allies that Stilwell had his full confidence and was vested with plenipotentiary powers." — From Frank McLynn's 2011 book The Burma Campaign: Disaster Into Triumph, 1942-45

"His knowledge of the Japanese language led to assignments in Japan for over 17 years in government and business, including the Canadian Embassy as Minister Plenipotentiary and Head of Chancery." — From a press release from Westport Innovations Inc. via PR Newswire, February 11, 2013

  • 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.

Test Your Vocabulary: What 5-letter word begins with "p" and refers to a person who has the power or authority to do something for someone else? The answer is …

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