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

Usually, people styled "Excellency" are heads of state, heads of government, governors, ambassadors, certain ecclesiastics, royalty, aristocracy, and military, and others holding equivalent rank (e.g., heads of international organizations, high commissioners in the Commonwealth of Nations).

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".

The abbreviation HE is often used instead of His Excellency; alternatively it may stand for His Eminence.



Heads of state

In most republican nations, the president is formally styled "His Excellency"[citation needed]; however in day-to-day conversation "Mr. President" remains the most common means of address[citation needed].

If a republic has a prime minister, he 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.

Governors of colonies in the British Empire were entitled to be addressed as "Excellency" and this remains the position for the Governors of what are now known as British Overseas Territories.[1]

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 an Ambassador), 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.

International Judiciary

Judges of the International Court of Justice are also styled with "Your Excellency".



In some monarchies the husbands, wives, or children, of a royal prince or princess, who do not possess a princely title themselves, may be entitled to the style. Former husbands or wives of a royal prince or princess, who did have a royal title but lost this one, may be awarded the style after divorce.

In Spain, the husbands or children of an infante or infanta (by birth) do carry the style of "Excellency".

In some emirates (e.g. Kuwait or Qatar), besides the Emir, the Heir Apparent and Prime Minister (the only family member who are styled "His Highness"), all children of a (former) emir are styled with "His/Her Excellency" (unless being awarded a higher style).


In Spain and some other countries, high ranking noblemen (of Peerage rank in British terms) with the minimum rank of Duke, or with the dignity Grandee, are styled as "His/Her Excellency".

In Denmark feudal counts and barons have the right to be entitled your excellencies.


Excellency can also be attached to an honorary quality, notably in an order of knighthood. For example, 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 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.

Knights Collar and Knights Grand Cross of the Order of Carlos III of Spain, Knights Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great and Order of St. Sylvester of the Holy See, Knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and Knights Grand Cross of several other orders of high prestige, are also addressed as such.[2]

Military use

In most countries the general officers with the minimum rank equivalent or higher to that of Lieutenant General (army), Vice-Admiral (navy), or Air Marshal (airforce), are addressed as "Excellency".[citation needed]

Ecclesiastical use

By a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Ceremonial of 31 December 1930[3] the Holy See granted bishops of the Roman Catholic Church the title of "Most Reverend Excellency" (Latin, Excellentia Reverendissima). In the years following the First World War the ambassadorial title of "Excellency", previously given to nuncios, had already begun to be used of other Catholic bishops. The adjective "Most Reverend" was intended to distinguish the religious title from that of "Excellency" given to civil officials.

The instruction Ut sive sollicite of the Holy See's Secretariat of State, dated 28 March 1969, made the addition of "Most Reverend" optional.[4]

According to the letter of the decree of 31 December 1930, patriarchs too were to be addressed with the title of "(Most Reverend) Excellency", but in practice the Holy See continued to address them with the title of "Beatitude", which was formally sanctioned for them with the motu proprio Cleri sanctitati of 2 June 1957.

Cardinals, even those who were bishops, continued to use the title of "Eminence".

In some English-speaking countries, the title of "Excellency" is not in practice given to bishops other than the nuncio. In British law, Anglican archbishops and bishops are granted the titles, respectively, of "Grace" (Your Grace, His Grace, as for a duke) and "Lordship". The same titles are extended by courtesy to their Catholic counterparts, and continue in use in most countries that are or have been members of the Commonwealth. An exception is former British East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania).

By country


In 1991, the Brazilian Presidential Office issued a composition manual to establish the correct usage of the Portuguese language for all government agencies. The manual states that the title of Excelência (Excellency) is the proper form used to address the President and Vice President, all members of Parliament and judges, among other officials.[5]


The President of Ireland is addressed as "Your Excellency" or in the Irish language "a Shoilse". Alternatively, one may address the president simply as "President" or in the Irish language "a hUachtaráin".

Commonwealth of Nations

Within the Commonwealth of Nations, the following officials usually use the style "Excellency":

  • The Commonwealth Secretary-General;
  • Presidents of Commonwealth republics;
  • Governors and Governors-General, and the spouses of Governors-General;
  • Commonwealth High Commissioners;
  • Foreign ambassadors;
  • Foreign dignitaries who are entitled to the style in their own countries.

While reference may be made to the "Queen's Most Excellent Majesty", the style "Excellency" is not used with reference to the Queen.

United States

In the United States, the form "Excellency" was commonly used for George Washington during his Presidency, but it began to fall out of use with his successor, and today has been replaced in direct address with the simple "Mr. President" or "The Honorable " 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. Five of the other original colonies, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia also use the form "Excellency" in referring to their governors, and in South Carolina this is provided for by law. West Virginia likewise adopted the title "His/Her Excellency" from its parent state. The term is used frequently in the U.S. state of Georgia on the Governor's letterhead, the text of executive orders, any document requiring his or her signature and when in formal settings. Nevertheless, "Excellency" is used frequently when introducing the Governor of Pennsylvania, the Governor of Virginia and the Governor of North Carolina at formal events. The governor of Michigan is traditionally afforded the courtesy title, though it has fallen out of use in recent years. [1]

Other governors are sometimes addressed as "excellency" at public events. This is a traditional practice that is not at all incorrect, but it is less common, and is the product of custom and courtesy rather than of legislation.

Though ambassadors are traditionally accorded the title elsewhere, the U.S. government does not use "excellency" for its diplomatic corps, preferring "the honorable" instead.

See also

Sources and references

  1. ^ Williams, Stephanie (2011). Running the Show: Governors of the British Empire. Viking. ISBN 9780670918041. 
  2. ^ Satow, Ernest Mason, Sir - A Guide to Diplomatic Practice
  3. ^ Acta Apostolicae Sedis 1931, p. 22; L'Osservatore Romano 24 January 1931.
  4. ^ Ut sive sollicite, 22
  5. ^ Manual de Redação da Presidência da República (Portuguese)

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  • Excellency — Ex cel*len*cy, n.; pl. {Excellencies}. 1. Excellence; virtue; dignity; worth; superiority. [1913 Webster] His excellency is over Israel. Ps. lxviii. 34. [1913 Webster] Extinguish in men the sense of their own excellency. Hooker. [1913 Webster] 2 …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Excellency — ► NOUN (pl. Excellencies) (His, Your, etc. Excellency) ▪ a title or form of address for certain high officials of state, especially ambassadors, or of the Roman Catholic Church …   English terms dictionary

  • excellency — index primacy Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • excellency — (n.) high rank, c.1200, from L. excellentia (see EXCELLENCE (Cf. excellence)); as a title of honor it dates from early 14c …   Etymology dictionary

  • excellency — [ek′sə lən sē] n. pl. excellencies [ME excellencie < L excellentia] 1. [E ] a title of honor applied to various persons of high position, as an ambassador, bishop, or governor: preceded by Your or by His or Her 2. EXCELLENCE …   English World dictionary

  • Excellency — [[t]e̱ksələnsi[/t]] Excellencies N VOC: poss N; PRON: poss PRON (politeness) You use expressions such as Your Excellency or His Excellency when you are addressing or referring to officials of very high rank, for example ambassadors or governors.… …   English dictionary

  • Excellency — noun your excellency/his excellency a way of talking to or about people who hold high positions in the state or the church: His Excellency the Spanish ambassador …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • Excellency — Ex|cel|len|cy [ˈeksələnsi] n Your/His/Her Excellency a way of talking to or about people who hold high positions in the state or the church ▪ His Excellency the Spanish ambassador …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Excellency — Ex|cel|len|cy [ eksələnsi ] noun Your/His/Her Excellency used for talking politely to or about someone who has a very important official or religious position: His Excellency the President of Uganda …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Excellency — UK [ˈeksələnsɪ] / US noun Your/His/Her Excellency used for talking politely to or about someone who has a very important official or religious position His Excellency the President of Uganda …   English dictionary

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