Persona Non Grata Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

In this guide, you’ll learn the meaning of persona non grata, its origins, how we use it today, synonyms, examples, and much more!

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Some phrases stand the test of time, and they remain unchanged for centuries. Oddly enough, these words have existed for so long that you may not actually be taught what they specifically mean. You hear them or read them, and you gain understanding from context only. You can give these words depth by learning their definition and how to use them properly.

Today, we’re diving deeper into the meaning of persona non grata.

What Is the Definition of Persona Non Grata?

According to the Collins English Dictionary, persona non grata is defined as a person who is not acceptable or welcome. The word is a noun, and the dictionary states that the phrasal noun is typically not accompanied by “the” or “a.” This definition most often refers to a person who is unwelcome to a foreign government. 

The plural form of persona non grata is personae non gratae. Persona non grata is pronounced pərˈsoʊnə noʊn ˈgrɑtə, and personae non gratae is pronounced pərˈsoʊni noʊn ˈgrɑti. Exploring this word’s origins can help us to better understand its meaning.

What Is the Origin of Persona Non Grata?

The origin of persona non grata as we use it in English and other European languages can be traced back to Latin. 

Persona non grata does not come from classical or patristic Latin. In Late Latin, persōna nōn grāta would have had roughly the same meaning it holds today. In fact, today’s phrase takes its meaning directly from the Latin translation of each word.

  • Latin persōna: meaning “person” or “outward and social personality”
  • Latin nōn: meaning “not”
  • Latin grāta: the feminine of grātus; meaning “pleasing,” “agreeable,” or “favorable”

Its first use was in late medieval ecclesiastical diplomacy, and it was used sporadically from the 15th century until the 18th century. The phrasal noun became more prevalent in negotiations between the Holy See and the Protestant monarchies of Germany in the 1820s. Originally, international diplomacy used persona grata in the language of their documents

The negative persona non grata is now more common than the positive, but it did not appear regularly until it was developed in the nineteenth century.

How Do We Use Persona Non Grata Today?

A persona non grata declaration can have a serious impact on diplomatic relations. The declaration of persona non grata can be used by a foreign country or receiving state to strip foreign diplomats of the protection of diplomatic immunity. 

Diplomatic immunity is a privilege that exempts diplomats from certain laws and taxes in the host state, protects them from arrests, and allows them to be free from prosecution. 

A host state can declare a member of a diplomatic staff persona non grata without explanation at any time. This is generally seen as a message to the sending state. 

A member of the mission’s staff can face expulsion from the country and be subject to arrest and prosecution. It is also possible for a person to be declared persona non grata before they have arrived in the territory.

According to International Law

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations Article 9 provides guidance on declaring persona non grata. This reserves the right of any receiving state to make a declaration without explanation. Typically, the home nation of that diplomat recalls them from their assignment. If the sending state does not choose to recall them, they may not be recognized as a member of the mission. 

When given diplomatic immunity, representatives may be given exemption from prosecution of civil and criminal laws of the host state. However, they are expected to respect national laws and regulations. A breach of this adherence could result in the declaration of persona non grata. 

In addition, persons suspected of espionage or “activities incompatible with diplomatic status” may be declared personae non gratae. It is a requirement that the consular officer is recalled by their government or sovereign. The receiving country’s government can set a deadline for the diplomatist to leave, but the foreign person must be given a reasonable period of time to leave. 

Outside of Diplomacy 

Outside the world of international relations, persona non grata can be used to refer to a trespasser, a villain, or anyone who is unwelcome or unwanted.

What Are Synonyms for Persona Non Grata?

Synonyms have the same meaning as a word, abbreviation, or phrase. Synonyms also help us to avoid the redundant use of a word by giving us alternate ways to verbalize our meaning. 

Here are a few synonyms for the phrase persona non grata:

  • Undesirable
  • Unacceptable person
  • Bad news
  • Objectionable person
  • Pet peeve

What Are Antonyms for Persona Non Grata?

Antonyms have the opposite meaning of a word, abbreviation, or phrase. Antonyms help us to further our understanding by learning what something does not mean. In speech and text, this helps us to convey our thoughts when we want to say something with an opposing message. 

Here are a few synonyms for persona non grata:

  • Acceptable
  • Desirable
  • Unobjectionable
  • Good news
  • Nice
  • Lovable
  • Pleasant
  • Welcome
  • Pleasing

What Are Examples of How to Use Persona Non Grata?

Example sentences help us further our understanding of a word by seeing it in action. When we read a word in context, we can infer more meaning and learn how to appropriately use the word ourselves in the future. 

Here are a few example sentences that use persona non grata or personae non gratae:

  • Venezuela declared the German ambassador, Daniel Kriener, to be persona non grata.
  • While she was the United States ambassador to Ecuador, Heather Hodges was declared persona non grata by the Ecuador Ministry.
  • The United States declared the Ecuadorian Ambassador persona non grata in retaliation in 2011.
  • The member of the diplomatic staff of the mission was declared as persona non grata before their flight had even been scheduled.
  • The expatriated ex-rebels were concerned about the non-receipt of the indemnity installment and their status as personae non gratae.

The Last Word

Persona non grata is a word you may hear on the news. Now that you know what it means, you’ll understand the implications when you see it! You’ll also be well-equipped and confident should you need to use the phrase yourself the next time someone gate-crashes your party. 

Just as governments have the right to make declarations of persona non grata without explanation, you can too.


  1. Persona non grata definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  2. Persona non grata Definition & Meaning | 
  3. Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 | The UN