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What are the differences in use of mandate and remit? For example, Googling for the remit of gives me examples like:

The remit of the BBC is to entertain, educate and inform.

whereas if I google for the mandate of, I get things like:

The mandate of the Federal Reserve is to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.

Both describe what a given organization should do, but what are the differences?

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Learn something new everyday. Never knew this definition of remit. –  Kevin Jul 25 '12 at 13:44
For what it's worth, I've never heard remit used this way in American English, so if you were writing this for a U.S. audience, I would imagine that "mandate" would probably be more widely understood (such as the "individual mandate" in the health care bill). –  Ben Dyer Jul 25 '12 at 14:21
@Ben Dyer: I must admit I'm really surprised to find that you seem to spot on there. I know it's not many instances in total, but this NGram for beyond our remit absolutely flatlines if you switch to the US corpus. I'm used to NGrams flatlining when you switch to UK corpus, because we've got less books indexed in the first place. But it's unusual to come across something going the other way, unless it's a common "Briticism" that Americans are known to avoid. Useful comment! –  FumbleFingers Jul 25 '12 at 21:15
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1 Answer

For most purposes, mandate and remit are synonymous, both meaning an instruction or commission.

In practice I think mandate is often used in contexts where the important thing is the authority it carries. A government, for example, will claim that because they won an election with some specific policy in their manifesto, they have a mandate to put it into effect, even if some people (those who voted for the opposition) aren't happy with the situation.

On the other hand, remit is more often used where the scope of the authorisation is more relevant.

Thus you'll often come across "We don't have a mandate for that" (we haven't been authorised), and "That's outside our remit" (that goes beyond what we've been authorised to do). You won't often hear either word used in a context where the opposite connotation is implied.

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+1 When I saw your answer I was busy typing away that the distinction between remit and mandate is similar to the one between responsibilities and orders. –  coleopterist Jul 25 '12 at 12:49
@coleopterist: I see what you mean. "We are responsible for dealing with that" tends to focus on the scope, whereas "Our orders are to deal with that" focusses more on the fact of having been instructed. But usually when people talk about a mandate they're more interested in the fact that they now have authority to do something, rather than that they were ordered to do it. And again, when they talk about remit, they're usually concerned with whether "something" falls within the remit or not, regardless of where that remit came from. –  FumbleFingers Jul 25 '12 at 13:01
thanks to both for the comments! :-) –  130490868091234 Jul 25 '12 at 14:52
@FumbleFingers I agree. It's a little more nuanced than just orders. I was trying to allude to the degree of authority as you've mentioned in your answer. –  coleopterist Jul 25 '12 at 16:27
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