Secretary is a title often used in organizations to indicate a person having a certain amount of authority, power, or importance in the organization. Secretaries announce important events and communicate to the organization. The term is derived from the Latin word secernere, "to distinguish" or "to set apart", the passive participle (secretum) meaning "having been set apart", with the eventual connotation of something private or confidential, as with the English word secret. A secretarius was a person, therefore, overseeing business confidentially, usually for a powerful individual (a king, pope, etc.).
The official title of the leader of most communist and socialist political parties is the "General Secretary of the Central Committee" or "First Secretary of the Central Committee". When a communist party is in power, the General Secretary is usually the country's de facto leader (though sometimes this leader also holds state-level positions to monopolize power, such as a presidency or premiership in order to constitute de jure leadership of the state), such as China and Cuba.
In England, the term secretarius was used "from the beginning of the thirteenth century in the varying meanings of a confidential clerk, an ambassador, or a member of the king's council". In the fourteenth century, the title became strongly associated with the keeper of the king's signet. From the Renaissance to the late 19th century, men involved in the daily correspondence and the activities of the powerful assumed the title of secretary. With time, like many titles, the term was applied to more and varied functions, leading to compound titles to specify the authority associated with its use, like general secretary or financial secretary.
In some countries, such as the United States, the term secretary is used to indicate the holder of a cabinet-level post. This usage derives in part from the desire of the founders of the United States to differentiate the country from the United Kingdom, which denoted such offices as ministers. There are a number of popular variations of the title used to indicate that the secretary in question has a high degree of authority, such as general secretary (or, following usage in the Norman language, secretary-general), first secretary, and executive secretary.
In a club or society, the secretary is also considered to be, in most cases, the third person in charge of the organization, after the president/chairman and vice president/vice chairman. In smaller organizations, the secretary typically takes meeting minutes, notifies members of meetings, contacts various persons in relation to the society, administers the day-to-day activities of the organization, and creates the order of business. The secretary of a non-governmental organization or international non-governmental organization can combine the function with that of vice president/vice chairman.
General secretary occurs as the title of a ministerial position of authority found in various organizations, such as trade unions, communist and socialist parties, and international non-governmental organizations. Examples include:
- General Secretary of the Communist Party
- General Secretary of the Communist Party of China
- General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam
- General Secretary of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party
- General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
- General Secretary of the Portuguese Communist Party
- General Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea
- General Secretary of the Mongolian People's Party
- General Secretary of the Labour Party
- General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress
- Some church organizations, such as the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches
International intergovernmental organizations
International nongovernmental organizationsEuropean Medical Students' Association (EMSA) International Federation of Medical Students' Associations (IFMSA)
|Amnesty International (AI)|
|Anglican Consultative Council (ACC)|
|Council of Diaspora Métis (CDM)|
|The Duke of Edinburgh's Award International Association (IAA)|
|European Law Students' Association (ELSA)|
|The European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment|
|International Chamber of Shipping|
|The International Community of Breeders of Asexually Reproduced Ornamental and Fruit Varieties - CIOPORA|
|International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)|
|International People's Conference Organisation (IPCO)|
|International Association for Political Science Students (IAPSS)|
|No Peace Without Justice|
|The Orange Defense Network (ODN)|
|Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization|
|World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)|
|World Organization of the Scout Movement|
Sports governing bodies
|-||International Basketball Federation (FIBA)|
First secretary is the title of the chief officer or leader in many organizations, and is also a modern diplomatic rank. Examples include:
- Some consumer organizations, such as the National Consumers League
- Some political parties, especially Communist or Socialist Parties
- First Secretary of State, a cabinet position in the United Kingdom
- First Secretary for Wales, now First Minister of Wales
- First Secretary of the Admiralty—see Secretary to the Admiralty
- In Workers' Party and Communist Party organizations:
- First Secretary of the Communist Party of Armenia
- First Secretary of the Communist Party of China—see Party chief of the Communist Party of China
- First Secretary of the Communist Youth League of China
- First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba
- First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
- First Secretary of the French Socialist Party
- First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party
- First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea
- First Secretary of the Communist Party of Lithuania
- First Secretary of the Polish United Workers' Party
- First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation
- First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
- First Secretary of the Communist Party of Tajikistan
- First Secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party
- First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Vietnam
- Some trade unions, especially in the United Kingdom
- The General Secretariat for Macedonia and Thrace, a government agency for the Greek regions of Macedonia and Thrace
- Executive Secretary (Commonwealth of Independent States)
- Executive Secretary (Philippines)
- Executive Secretary for Integral Development, Organization of American States
- Executive Secretary of the Department of State, United States
- "Xi's here to stay: China leader tipped to outstay term". Daily Mail. 9 August 2016.
"A lot of analysts now see it as a given" that Xi will seek to stay Party General Secretary, the country's most powerful post, said Christopher K. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and now China specialist at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
- J. Otway-Ruthven, The King's Secretary and the Signet Office in the XV Century (1939), p. 60.
- Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 4th edition, Scott, Foresman and Company, Chicago, 1915, pp. 244–247.