Whats the term for profiling someone or doing background research on somebody before you meet them.

A reference to the behavior is Gary Walsh in the TV show VEEP where he whispers seemingly random information about somebody into the Vice Presidents ear before she meets the person. Then she is able to talk to them about their kids, dogs, hobbies, etc.

I imagine diplomats are briefed like this before they meet other foreign dignitaries.

I think it's both a verb and a noun, but I'm not sure.

It's not vetting, but it's something similar. Vetting happens before a decision, this would be just to gain knowledge about the other person.

  • 3
    Not sure what the right word is for receiving this information, but the person giving it is briefing (and the information itself is likewise called a briefing). Feb 13, 2014 at 0:42
  • @BraddSzonye Make it an answer
    – bib
    Feb 13, 2014 at 0:53
  • Dossier is a good answer too. I posted my comment as an answer, including how it relates to dossier. Feb 13, 2014 at 1:01

8 Answers 8


The act of providing summary information on a subject is briefing, and the information so provided can also be called a briefing or brief. The former is more common for verbal summaries, the latter for written. A written brief on a person is often called a dossier.

  • I used brief in the description - not the word I was looking for - but thanks for tying dossier into it.
    – skarson
    Feb 13, 2014 at 15:28

In ancient Rome, a nomenclator was a slave that whispered such facts into the ear of a politician. They were banned for a whiel as the candidate was supposed to do that on his own.

A nomenclator (/ˈnoʊmən.kleɪtər/;[1] English plural nomenclators, Latin plural nomenclatores; derived from the Latin nomen- name + calare - to call), in classical times, referred to a slave whose duty was to recall the names of persons his master met during a political campaign.[2] Later this became names of people in any social context and included other socially important information.[3]

  • Nice - is there a word for what the nomenclator would be doing. Or in today's world a word for the report they would deliver?
    – skarson
    Feb 13, 2014 at 0:45


  1. a collection of documents about a particular person, event, or subject. "we have a dossier on him"
  • hey buddy, if that's the answer... and Bradd answered before you.. you should delete this one, the upvote and tick his.
    – d'alar'cop
    Feb 13, 2014 at 2:41
  • @d'alar'cop - appreciate the follow up. Brief wasn't the answer I was looking for (I used it in the description) and I ended up finding dossier on my side. You can see in his comment "Dossier is a good answer too. I posted my comment as an answer, including how it relates to dossier." I'll flag it as the answer for the sake of closure though.
    – skarson
    Feb 13, 2014 at 15:25

In the UK these business terms still apply, but there's also "doing your homework" on someone, or if a third party is involved one may be "primed" with the salient facts.

There is the verb to brief, and then noun brief or even briefing, as in a legal context: "I've been given my briefing, and feel able to present the case favorably." To make you aware, in informal terms, a lawyer or barrister is the defendant's brief. See: Here.

To get the lowdown on a situation, to have someone who dished the dirt to you, for someone to enlighten you so that you know the score.


A similar term to vetting is screening (n.) and to screen (v.). It doesn't necesearrily involve a decision and there can be multiple levels of screenings starting with preliminary screening.

OED definition:

Examination or analysis of people or things to check for the presence of desirable or undesirable elements or attributes, or to assess suitability for a particular purpose.

To give emphasis on the information collected in advance, some other terms that I previously suggested were precheck (process), preinform and heads-up but they might be too general for the context.


Consider check out

to investigate or prove to be in order after investigation

While I cannot find a single dictionary to support such usage, why not background as a verb, as in

Prepping for the meeting, the aides backgrounded the competition.

  • This is kind of the opposite of what the questioner wants - the information is known, it just has to be delivered to the candidate on cue.
    – Oldcat
    Feb 13, 2014 at 0:50

Vetting is the process of investigating for the purpose of making a judgement, usually about a person and their qualifications.

Without the judgement (or decision), it is simply an investigation.

(When the subject of the investigation is a person, it is often called a background investigation or background check, When the investigator assumes an adversarial position with respect to the subject, it might be called opposition research (oppo), a term used in politics.)

A head of state or someone who socializes a lot might employ a social secretary to do what you have described. At this link, you can find a fictional description of the role, and includes the preparation of dossiers on guests. The guest dossier is the product of the investigation process. Though you asked for a single word answer, dossier preparation would describe the process, albeit in two words.


Another term, from the business, banking and legal worlds is "due diligence". The phrase cannot be used as a verb--yet. "We need to do due diligence on the candidate." "Where's the due diligence?" etc.

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