An official is someone who holds an office (function or , regardless whether it carries an actual with it) in an or government and participates in the exercise of , (either their own or that of their superior and/or employer, public or legally private). An elected official is a person who is an official by virtue of an . Officials may also be appointed ' (by virtue of another office, often in a specified capacity, such as presiding, advisory, secretary). Some official positions may be . A person who currently holds an office is referred to as an . Something "official" refers to something endowed with governmental or other authoritative recognition or mandate, as in , , or . The word ''official'' as a has been recorded since the period, first seen in 1314. It comes from the ''official'' (12th century), from the ''officialis'' ("attendant to a magistrate, government official"), the noun use of the original ''officialis'' ("of or belonging to duty, service, or office") from ''officium'' ("office"). The meaning "person in charge of some public work or duty" was first recorded in 1555. The adjective is first attested in English in 1533 via the Old French '. The informal term ''officialese'', the jargon of "officialdom", was first recorded in 1884.

Roman antiquity

An ''officialis'' ( ''officiales'') was the official term (somewhat comparable to a modern civil servant) for any member of the (staff) of a high dignitary such as a governor.

Ecclesiastical judiciary

In , the word or its Latin original ''officialis'' is used absolutely as the legal title of a diocesan bishop's who shares the bishop's judicial power over the diocese and presides over the diocesan . The 1983 Code of Canon Law gives precedence to the title , rather than that of Officialis (canon 1420). The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches uses only the title Judicial Vicar (canon 191). In German, the related noun ''Offizialat'' was also used for an official bureau in a diocese that did much of its administration, comprising the , an adjoined secretariat, a registry office and a chancery. In Catholicism, the vicar-general was originally called the "official" (''officialis''). The title of official principal, together with that of , has in Anglicanism been merged in that of of a diocese.


In , the term official is used to describe a person enforcing playing in the capacity of a , and ; also specified by the discipline, e.g. , . An official competition is created or recognized as valid by the competent body, is agreed to or arranged by people in positions of authority. Is synonymous, among others, with approved, certified, recognized, endorsed, legitimate.


The term ''officer'' is close to being a synonym (but has more military s). A functionary is someone who carries out a particular role within an organization; this again is quite a close synonym for ''official'', as a , but with connotations closer to . Any such person acts in their official capacity, in carrying out the duties of their office; they are also said to officiate, for example in a . A public official is an official of central or local .

Max Weber on bureaucratic officials

gave as definition of a bureaucratic official: *they are personally free and appointed to their position on the basis of conduct *he exercises the authority delegated to them in accordance with impersonal rules, and their loyalty is enlisted on behalf of the faithful execution of their official duties *their appointment and job placement are dependent upon their technical qualifications *their administrative work is a full-time occupation *their work is rewarded by a regular salary and prospects of advancement in a lifetime career. An official must exercise their judgment and their skills, but their duty is to place these at the service of a higher authority; ultimately they are responsible only for the impartial execution of assigned tasks and must sacrifice their personal judgment if it runs counter to their official duties.


As an , "official" often, but not always, means pertaining to the government, as state employee or having state recognition, or analogous to governance or to a formal (especially legally regulated) proceeding as opposed to informal business. In summary that has authenticity emanates from an authority. Some examples: *An ''official holiday'' is a , having national (or regional) recognition. *An is a language recognised by a government, for its own use in administration, or for delivering services to its citizens (for example, on s). *An ''official spokesperson'' is an individual empowered to speak for the government, or some part of it such as a , on a range of issues and on the record for the . *An ''official statement'' is an issued by an organisation as an expression of its corporate position or opinion; an ''official apology'' is an apology similarly issued by an organisation (as opposed to an apology by an individual). *''Official policy'' is policy publicly acknowledged and defended by an organisation. In these cases ''unofficial'' is an antonym, and variously may mean informal, unrecognised, personal or unacknowledged. *An ''official strike'' is a organised and recognised by a , as opposed to an ''unofficial strike'' at grassroots level. *An ''official school'' is a administered by the government or by a local authority, as opposite to a or . *An ', for example of an institution or business, or particularly of a or , is a history written as a commission, with the assumption of co-operation with access to records and archives; but without necessarily full . *An ''official biography'' is usually on the same lines, written with access to private papers and the support of the family of the subject.

See also

* * * *


Further reading

* * {{Authority control