In Ottoman Turkish as well as in archaic modern Turkish, reis means "chief" and katip (singular of küttap) means "clerk". Accordingly, the reisülküttap was the chief of clerks in the Ottoman divan (government). There were three (later four) offices under the officeholder's supervision. During the growth of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th and 16th centuries, the reisülküttap was the subordinate of nişancı, a post which was a member of the divan. Although reisülküttap was also present in divan meetings, he took no part in the discussions. His superior nişancı was also responsible for the foreign relations of the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, the reisülküttap was, in modern terminology, an assistant foreign minister. However, during the stagnation of the empire in the 17th century, increasing foreign relations necessitated an independent post for foreign services and the reisülküttap became de facto foreign minister of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1836, the title of reisülküttap was changed to foreign minister (Ottoman Turkish: Hariciye Nazırı) with the establishment of the Ottoman Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ottoman Turkish: Osmanlı Hariciye Nazırlığı) amidst the Tanzimat reforms.
Some grand viziers of reisülküttap origin
In parallel with the increasing importance of reisülküttap, some reisülküttaps were later promoted to be grand viziers.
- Rami Mehmet Pasha (1703)
- Naili Abdullah Pasha (1755)
- Koca Ragıp Pasha (1757–1763)
- Halil Hamid Pasha (1782–1785)
- Mehmed Said Galip Pasha (1823–1824)