Talk:Chief of state

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 Definition The highest official of a nation, who may have executive power as does the President of the United States, or be largely ceremonial as is the British monarch [d] [e]
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 Workgroup categories Law and Politics [Editors asked to check categories]
 Talk Archive none  English language variant American English

Some points

  • You seem to be using constitutional monarch as a subspecies of ceremonial heads of state. I don't think that's correct. For example, Charles II was a constitutional monarch but scarcely a ceremonial one. It's reasonable to regard the President of the United States of America as a consitutional monarch (elected rather than hereditary). Other more traditonal examples that spring to mind are the constitutional but politically powerful kings of Bhutan and Swaziland.
  • I think it's clear that in France the President is the pre-eminent authority. South Africa and Zimbabwe are other examples that spring to mind.
  • Is "Chief of state" really more common than "head of state"?

Richard Pinch 21:54, 26 November 2008 (UTC)

I too have never really seen 'chief of state' used. It's certainly 'head of state' in the UK. John Stephenson 09:37, 22 January 2009 (UTC)
I am enlightened; there may be a difference in national usage. Here's, for example, usage of "chief of state" in the CIA World Factbook, which is the most common unclassified reference in the U.S. foreign policy organizations, with a French example: [1]. There are two still unclassified but more formal references on government officials, one from CIA and one from the State Department; I'll try to find the links. Incidentally, while this does seem to be changing, for many years, CIA conducted many more-or-less administrative "activities of common concern", such as preparing preprinted outline maps, minimal country summaries, etc., that were available to the public. They also prepared low-level classified references although some organizations, such as the Army, did their own versions to minimize classification. The CIA documents were the National Intelligence Surveys, while the Army had Foreign Area Handbooks prepared, with only a classified annex. While they were first done under contract at American Univerity; the work then went to the Foreign Research Division of the Library of Congress.
As far as the U.S. president being a constitutional monarch, see Article I, Section 9, Sentence 7 of the Constitution of the United States:

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States, and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.[2]

Yes, I know the preceding was confusing to Dick Cheney, although there are those who believe his title came from, perhaps, Lucifer :-(.
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n.
But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
Th' associates and copartners of our loss
Lye thus astonisht on th' oblivious Pool,
And call them not to share with us their part
In this unhappy Mansion, or once more
With rallied Arms to try what may be yet
 Regaind in Heav'n, or what more lost in Hell?
   So Satan spake, and him Beelzebub [3]

If we can find more universal terms, all the better. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:16, 22 January 2009 (UTC)

The OED has an entry for "head of state" but none for "chief of state." Merriam-Webster's Unabridged, on the other hand, has it the other way around; but it defines "chief of state" as "the formal head of a national state." The official UK royal website says Brenda is the "Head of State." At there are 137 hits for "head of state" and only one for "chief of state"; on the U.S. State Department website there are 3,000 "head of state"s and 1,500 "chief of state"s, one of which is on the Protocol office's FAQ page (along with "head of government"). U.S. Army Regulation 600-25, which deals with ruffles-and-flourishes and 21-gun salutes and such, uses "Chief of State." But the official American Forces Press Service uses "head of state" in its press releases. So even the experts don't seem to agree on one or the other. Er...hope this helps! Bruce M.Tindall 16:58, 22 January 2009 (UTC)
If the guillotine were in wider use for monarchial reduction, "head" might seem especially apt. Officialdom has its way; a programmer colleague of mine, in the seventies, had retired as the arranger for the U.S. Army Band, which usually played for initial state visits. It was obligatory for the band to play the appropriate national anthem, but many new states did not have one, which would not stand in the way of U.S. Army procedure. Ray Kirby may have written more instrumental national anthems than anyone in history; if the diplomats said the country didn't have one, he'd compose it, they'd play it, and then give the departing diplomat the sheet music and a recording. Some, at least, were popular enough that they were adopted. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:12, 22 January 2009 (UTC)


Following the discussion above, I think we should move this to head of state. John Stephenson 19:17, 23 November 2014 (UTC)

I don't see how that follows from the discussion, which seems to say, without contradiction, that US usage is CoS. The page was written by an American, so policy is it should be in American English (I think that policy should be changed to accord with WP policy of making an exception for topics particularly relevant to one form of English, but that's another issue). It would seem odd for the title of an article to be in a different form of English from the article itself.
I read somewhere that Americans use HoS to mean what we call head of government, so they'd call Cameron our HoS, and the Queen the "figurehead". Peter Jackson 10:46, 24 November 2014 (UTC)
Support move to Head of State. Online examples for CoS are trivial, throwing up this Chief of State was the title given to the Head of State the New Republic. Pradyumna Singh 11:25, 24 November 2014 (UTC)
I did a Google advanced search yesterday to limit results to the United States and got 42 million hits for 'head of state' and 25 million for 'chief of state'. It appears both are used in US English while the former is in exclusive use in British/Commonwealth English. I still think this should be moved. John Stephenson (talk) 15:25, 15 May 2017 (UTC)
But how many of those might be the alternative American meaning I mentioned above: American "head of state" in the sense of British "head of government"? I admit I can't find any mention of it with a quick look at WP. I think I came across it in Scientific American decades ago. Can't think offhand what it might have been doing there: maybe analogy for something. Maybe too rare to worry about, but maybe someone better at websearch than I might find it worth looking. Peter Jackson (talk) 15:53, 15 May 2017 (UTC)
I still think this should be moved to head of state... John Stephenson (talk) 19:33, 7 September 2020 (UTC)
The New York Times Manual of Style doesn't show either. The 11th Edition of the M-W Collegiate Dictionary has "chief of state (1948): the formal head of a national state as distinguished from the head of the government". So it's saying that it's two different things. So, according to this, QE would be the head of state, but Boris J. would be the head of the government. Under the Hs, though, it does NOT have "head of state" anywhere that I can find. I'll take a look at my Unabridged Second Edition, though....
The magisterial M-W 2nd Edition Unabridged International, all 3500 pages of it, printed in 1940 (my edition at any rate), does not have EITHER of them. So apparently it really is a post-war phrase (or two), as indicated by the Collegiate version above. Hayford Peirce (talk) 22:16, 7 September 2020 (UTC)
A Google Ngram search of language corpora (see all examples versus just US English or just UK English) shows that in the US 'chief of state' is overtaken by 'head of state' in the 1960s. John Stephenson (talk) 11:02, 8 September 2020 (UTC)