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Is there an English term to describe someone who is welcomed with high respect in a country, for example, the Chinese vice president on a recent trip to the US?

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A word somewhere between VIP and diplomat (between 'someone important' and 'a foreign government official')? –  Mitch Feb 24 '12 at 14:13

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

‘Dignitary’ is what I most commonly encounter, usually as ‘foreign dignitary’. As Sam says, this is mainly used for people who are in some official sense representing their country -- diplomats, ministers, high-ranking civil servants and the like.

Otherwise, I'd say the foreignity and esteem should be obvious from the rest of the story, and simply use the word ‘guest’. Make the official esteem clear by mentioning who is the host: ‘guest’ or ‘guest of the government’, or ‘guest of the royal house’, or ‘official guest’ --- that sort of thing. Or drop words like ‘official visit’ and ‘welcomed with égards’.

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A dignitary would be more than just well-respected. It typically denotes a person of a certain political or religious rank or honor worthy of official recognition by the host government. –  Sam Feb 24 '12 at 15:14

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