AskDefine | Define excellency

Dictionary Definition

Excellency n : a title used to address dignitaries (such as ambassadors or governors); usually preceded by Your or His or Her; "Your Excellency"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The quality of being excellent.

Extensive Definition

Excellency is a honorific style given to certain members of an organization or state.


It is sometimes misinterpreted as a title of office in itself, but in fact it is an honorific which goes with and is used before various such titles (such as Mr. President, and so on), both in speech and in writing. In reference to such an official, it takes the form "His/Her Excellency"; in direct address, "Your Excellency", or, less formally, simply "Excellency".
In many states, this form is used for:

Statesmen and diplomacy

Commonwealth usage

The form "Excellency" has never been used to refer to, or address any monarch of any Commonwealth country where a sovereign is or was head of state. The mistaken belief that it can or should be used may arise from confusion due to errors of protocol in other countries or at the United Nations; however, in Commonwealth Realms, on documents such as Acts of Parliament, reference may be made to the monarch's "Most Excellent Majesty" as the source of the Act's authority, although this, of course, is not a style attached to the monarch.
The style "Excellency" is generally accorded to the current holders of the following offices:

United States usage

In the United States, the form "Excellency" was specifically denied to the President, with "Mr. President" or "The Honorable ..." being the only legally accepted forms. However, in many foreign countries and in United Nations protocol the President of the United States is usually referred to as "His Excellency." Diplomatic correspondence to President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, as during the Trent Affair, for instance, frequently referred to him as "His Excellency."
In the six states of New England, governors have retained the honorific "Excellency," following traditional British colonial practice, though it is rarely used. They are: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine. All of these states were among the original Thirteen Colonies, either as colonies in their own right, or (in the case of Vermont and Maine) as parts of other colonies. Four of the other original colonies, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, also use the form "Excellency" in referring to their governors. The State of South Carolina legally provides for the Governor to be referred to as "Excellency"; the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of North Carolina do not. Nevertheless, "Excellency" is used frequently when introducing the Governor of Pennsylvania, the Governor of Virginia and the Governor of North Carolina at formal events.
Though incorrect, other governors are sometimes addressed as "excellency" at public events, usually as a result of organizers analogizing the practice from states that still use the style.
Though ambassadors are traditionally accorded the title elsewhere (see below), the U.S. government does not use "excellency" for its diplomatic corps, preferring "the honorable" instead.

Other countries

In most republican nations, the president is formally called "His/Her Excellency" and the initials "HE" are often presented in front of their name in formal documents, however, the simpler form "Mr./Madam President" remains the most common means of address for day-to-day conversation.
If a republic has a prime minister, he or she is often addressed as "Excellency" as well. If the nation is a constitutional monarchy, however, rules vary. Many European monarchies do not specifically give this form of address to their prime ministers, while most of the monarchies of Asia do.

International diplomacy

In various international organizations, notably the UN and its agencies, "Excellency" is used as a generic form of address for all heads of state and heads of government. It is often granted to the organization's head as well, and to those chiefs of UN diplomatic missions, such as Resident Coordinators (who are the designated representatives of the Secretary-General), who are accredited at the Head of State (like Ambassadors) - or the lower Head of Government level.
In recent years, some international organizations, such as the OSCE, or the European Union, have designated their Permanent Representatives in third countries as "Ambassadors", although they do not represent sovereign entities. This is now largely accepted, and because these "Ambassadors" rank after the UN representative in the orders of precedence of representatives of international organizations, the UN coming naturally first as pre-eminent, the UN Resident Coordinators are now also commonly but informally referred to in diplomatic circles as "Ambassadors", although the UN itself does not refer to them in this way.

Other uses


In Spain and some other countries, high ranking noblemen titles of nobility (of Peerage rank in British terms), enjoy styling as "His/Her Excellency".

Other secular excellencies

Excellency can also be attached to an honorary quality, notably in an order of knighthood; e.g. in the empire of Brazil, it was attached to the highest classes, each time styled Grand cross, of all three imperial orders: Imperial Order of Dom Pedro I, Imperial Order of the Southern Cross (in this case, also enjoying the military honours of a Lieutenant general) and Order of the Rose.

Ecclesiastical use

In the Roman Catholic Church, it is customary in many countries to use this style with Archbishops or Bishops (more formally, "His", or "Your", "Most Reverend Excellency"); the title of Eminence (or, more formally, "His", or "Your", "Most Reverend Eminence") is reserved to cardinals. This is also the official usage, both ecclesiastical and diplomatic, and is the practice followed in the United States.
However in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth or former Commonwealth countries, it is more customary to follow the British tradition, as usual in the Anglican churches, where an (Arch)bishop is rather styled The Most Reverend or the Right Reverend and addressed as Your Grace or My Lord.

Sources and references

excellency in German: Exzellenz (Titel)
excellency in French: Son Excellence
excellency in Italian: Eccellenza (titolo)
excellency in Korean: 각하 (호칭)
excellency in Dutch: Excellentie
excellency in Norwegian: Eksellense
excellency in Portuguese: Sua Excelência
excellency in Swedish: Excellens
excellency in Chinese: 阁下
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