General English


  • noun somebody who is the highest level of diplomat representing his or her country in another country


Origin & History of “ambassador”

Appropriately enough, ambassador is a highly cosmopolitan word. It was borrowed back and forth among several European languages before arriving in English. Its ultimate source appears to be the Indo-European root *ag-‘drive, lead’, whose other numerous offspring include English act and agent. with the addition of the prefix *amb- ‘around’ (as in ambidextrous), this produced in the Celtic languages of Gaul the noun ambactos, which was borrowed by Latin as ambactus ‘vassal’. The Latin word then found its way into the Germanic languages – Old English had ambeht ‘servant, messenger’, Old high German ambaht (from which modern German gets amt ‘official position’) – from which it was later borrowed back into medieval Latin as ambactia. This seems to have formed the basis of a verb, *ambactiāre ‘go on a mission’ (from which English ultimately gets embassy), from which in turn was derived the noun *ambactiātor. This became ambasciator in Old Italian, from which Old French borrowed it as ambassadeur. The word had a be wildering array of spellings in middle English (such as ambaxadour and inbassetour) before finally settling down as ambassador in the 16th century.