"Envoy" apparently means messenger or representative, but the military term I want needs to be more specific.

I'm thinking of a group, or just one person, who goes out before battle, meets the enemy, and asks for surrender or other terms. This person or group is supposed to be unarmed.

I could have sword such a specific term existed, and it was on the tip of my tongue when I blurted out entourage and envoy, but they weren't what I wanted. It might be a hyphenated thing like "peace-envoy" or something.

Is there a word for what I'm thinking of? Or does "Envoy" specifically mean what I want it to in a military context?

  • That's a red shirt.
    – jxh
    Aug 17, 2015 at 17:50
  • @jxh lol maybe these days, but in old days they had no radio and had to negotiate prisoner exchanges the old fashioned way.
    – DrZ214
    Aug 17, 2015 at 19:59
  • More seriously, I am surprised no one has offered ambassador or diplomat.
    – jxh
    Aug 17, 2015 at 20:40
  • @jxh Because I asked for a very specific meaning, which those two words don't supply since they're too general.
    – DrZ214
    Aug 17, 2015 at 20:54
  • I suppose, but that's who it is. I don't think you will do much better than the wording in the Hague conventions, though.
    – jxh
    Aug 17, 2015 at 21:09

3 Answers 3


You're probably thinking emissary.

emissary - a representative sent on a mission or errand


Envoy can mean exactly what you want: it would be appropriate in the context you describe (although, as you say, it can also be used for a messenger or representative outside a military context). You will see plenty of examples in Google Books.

Under the Hague Regulations, a person is considered an envoy bearing a flag of truce (French original: “parlementaire”) if (a) he has been authorized by one of the belligerents to enter into communication with the other; and (b) he advances carrying a white flag.

Use of Force · War and Neutrality Peace Treaties (A-M) – Rudolf Bernhardt (2014)

(Perhaps you were thinking of the noun parley, or the verb, which, while not describing a person, refer to the exact situation you laid out.)

  • Interesting that it doesn't explicitly state he must be unarmed.
    – DrZ214
    Aug 17, 2015 at 21:11
  • @DrZ214: Indeed. Perhaps because it is difficult to ascertain in advance that he does not carry a concealed weapon? Aug 17, 2015 at 22:33

In Classical and Medieval times this was the Heralds' job.

Modern Heralds in U.K. have ceremonial duties.

HERALD noun (Merriam-Webster)

1 a : an official at a tournament of arms with duties including the making of announcements and the marshaling of combatants
b : an officer with the status of ambassador acting as official messenger between leaders especially in war
c (1) : officer of arms (2) : an officer of arms ranking above a pursuivant and below a king of arms

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