I've heard it many times. I searched the web and dictionary and found two meanings.

An official engaged in international negotiations (this is clear to me).
A person who deals tactfully with others (unclear).

We often say Ah! Come on...stop being a diplomat. Does it mean that we want the other person to be clear and straightforward (but then it's a bit negative) without playing with words? Does this word, by any means, refer to cunningness?

  • 7
    1. It is possible to use any word negatively. That doesn't make it inherently negative. "Stop being a diplomat" means "Stop being tactful and say what you really mean" 2. "Often" is too strong-Google returns me just 24 hits, half of which are literal. 3. The noun is cunning, not cunningness. Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 13:22
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    It's only a "guesstimate", but Google thinks it's got about 625,000 results for "There's no need to be diplomatic" - which is certainly what I'm used to, rather than OP's version. Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 14:42

2 Answers 2


No. Being a diplomat is always neutral in American or British English, and is normally used in the literal sense that someone works as a foreign emissary on official business.

In the figurative sense, we use "being diplomatic" rather than "being a diplomat". This is used to indicate that a person is being considerate of the views of others and deals with them tactfully (which is normally a compliment, and hence used positively).

Mr Smith was very diplomatic during the meeting with union leaders.

  • I would add that for some groups "being political" has a similar meaning to being diplomatic, but with a more negative connotation, suggesting insincerity
    – TBridges42
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 17:47

In US English, if you hear someone say, "Stop being a diplomat!", they are telling you to quit beating around the bush or putting a positive spin on something, and say what you mean in a straightforward way, even though it may be negative.

Being "diplomatic" or "a diplomat" doesn't really refer to "cunningness", but rather to putting things in a positive light, or not assigning blame, or attempting to save face for all involved.

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