em·​bas·​sy | \ ˈem-bə-sē How to pronounce embassy (audio) \
plural embassies

Definition of embassy

1 : a body of diplomatic representatives specifically : one headed by an ambassador
2a : the function or position of an ambassador
b : a mission abroad undertaken officially especially by an ambassador
4 : the official residence and offices of an ambassador

Examples of embassy in a Sentence

Protesters marched outside the American embassy.
Recent Examples on the Web The mysterious disappearance last month of a Saudi dissident living in Montreal after visiting the kingdom’s embassy in Ottawa has sent fear rippling across Canada’s community of Saudi exiles. Washington Post, "After dissident vanishes in Canada, Saudi exiles fear they are now in jeopardy," 27 Feb. 2021 Calls for comment on the Russian diplomats’ journey to the North Korean embassy in Moscow were unanswered. Ann M. Simmons, WSJ, "Russian Diplomats Flee North Korea by Hand-Powered Rail Cart," 26 Feb. 2021 The ministry said the photos were taken on Feb. 25, and included eight employees who worked at the Russian embassy in North Korea. Fox News, "Russian diplomats exit North Korea by hand-pushed trolley," 26 Feb. 2021 After serving in diplomatic roles in Switzerland, Morocco and Nigeria, Attanasio was assigned to the Italian embassy in Kinshasa in September 2017. Star Tribune, "Italian ambassador among 3 killed in attack on Congo convoy," 22 Feb. 2021 After serving in diplomatic roles in Switzerland, Morocco and Nigeria, Attanasio was assigned to the Italian embassy in Kinshasa in September 2017. NBC News, "Italian ambassador among 3 killed in attack on Congo convoy," 22 Feb. 2021 In 1988 Alexander, who had been headhunted while at university by the KGB, was posted to the Soviet embassy in London as an economics attaché. Simon Usborne, Town & Country, "The Dizzying Social Rise of Russian Scion Evgeny Lebedev," 21 Feb. 2021 Some people have accused him of being directly involved in the storming of the American embassy in Tehran and the taking of hostages. The Economist, "Does Mahmoud Ahmadinejad want to be president of Iran again?," 20 Feb. 2021 Following the drawdown of the embassy in 2017, consular services in Havana have been all but cut off for Cubans seeking visas to visit or emigrate to the United States. Patrick Oppmann, CNN, "Will US diplomats finally return to Havana, after a rash of mystery injuries?," 19 Feb. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'embassy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of embassy

1549, in the meaning defined at sense 2b

History and Etymology for embassy

probably alteration (by substitution of the suffix -y entry 2) of embassade, variant (with em- after embassador "ambassador" and other derivatives based on Romance forms with em- em- replacing am-) of ambassade, going back to Middle English ambassiat, ambassiad, ambassate, ambassade "office of an ambassador, diplomatic mission, persons trusted with such a mission," borrowed from Anglo-French ambassiate, ambassade "diplomatic mission" and Middle French ambassade, ambaxade "diplomatic or political mission, persons sent on such a mission, ambassador," borrowed from Italian (13th-century) ambasciata "diplomatic mission, official message," borrowed from Old Occitan ambayssada "diplomatic mission," earlier ambayssat "message," derivatives (with the suffixes of action and result -at, -ada) of *ambaissa, going back to Late Latin ambascia, ambassia "mission, errand, task, journey," borrowed from Germanic *ambahtja- "service, office" (whence Old English ambiht, embiht "service, ministry," Old Saxon ambaht "office, service," Old High German ambahti "commission, task, obligation, service," Old Icelandic embætti "service, office, task," Gothic andbahti "office, service, assistance"), derivative of *ambahtjōn- or *ambahta- "servant, follower" (whence Old English ombiht, embiht "servant, attendant, officer," Old Saxon ambahtio "servant," Old High German ambaht "servant, holder of a spiritual or lay office," Old Icelandic ambátt "bondwoman, female servant," Gothic andbahts "servant"), borrowed from Celtic *ambaχto- (whence Welsh amaeth "plowman, tillage," Gaulish *ambaktos, in Latin texts as ambactus "servant"), agentive noun from the verbal adjective of *ambi-ag-, whence Old Irish imm‧aig "(s/he) drives around, pursues," going back to Indo-European *h2m̥bhi "around" + *h2eǵ- "drive" — more at -ade, ambient entry 1, agent

Note: Romance and Medieval Latin forms show frequent fluctuation between initial am- and em- in this family of words; this is conditioned by the replacement of am- by the more transparent verb-forming prefix em-, and perhaps in part also by the homonymy of the two suffixes in medieval French. The form embassy competed in early Modern English with ambassy, but the latter apparently declined by the eighteenth century. Samuel Johnson noted in his dictionary (1755) that "our authors write almost indiscriminately embassador or ambassador, embassage or ambassage; yet there is scarce an example of ambassy, all concurring to write embassy." — The hypothesis that Italian ambasciata represents a loan from Old Occitan rather than a direct borrowing from spoken Latin *ambactiāta or from Germanic is based on phonetic developments in Italian: the cluster -kti̯- regularly results in -cci- (tracciare "to trace, mark out," from *tractiāre) or -zz- (drizzare "to direct," from *dīrectiāre), but not -sci-. — As noted by Ernout and Meillet (Dictionaire étymologique de la langue latine), the word ambactus is not naturalized in Latin ("Mot étranger—non pas mot d'emprunt"). Its use is attributed to the early Roman author Ennius by the grammarian Sextus Pompeius Festus: "apud Ennium lingua gallica seruus appellatur…seruus ambactus, i.e. circumactus dicitur" (in the work of Ennius servus ["slave, servant"] is called [by a word in] Gaulish…servus is ambactus, that is to say, "one who is made to go around"; ambactus is not, however, attested in the extant fragments of Ennius's poetry. More light is thrown on the word by Julius Caesar, who uses the word in describing Gaulish social structure (De bello Gallico, 6.15.2): "…atque eorum ut quisque est genere copiisque amplissimus, ita plurimos circum se ambactos clientesque habet." ("And as each of them [the equites = "knights," as opposed to the druids and the commoners] is distinguished by birth or resources, so he maintains around himself the greater number of ambacti and clients.") Here the word more likely means "follower" or "vassal" than "servant" or "slave," corresponding to its meaning in Germanic ("servant," but also "person fulfilling an official function"). These senses underly the rich development of the word in Romance languages. The Welsh word amaeth "plowman," however, retains what must have been the original meaning of the deverbal derivative, "one who drives (a plowing ox) around."

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The first known use of embassy was in 1549

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Last Updated

3 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Embassy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/embassy. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for embassy



English Language Learners Definition of embassy

: a group of people who work under an ambassador and represent their country in a foreign country
: the building where an ambassador lives and works


em·​bas·​sy | \ ˈem-bə-sē How to pronounce embassy (audio) \
plural embassies

Kids Definition of embassy

1 : a group of people led by an ambassador who represent their country in a foreign country
2 : the building where an ambassador lives or works

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