I am wondering whether an "Executive Summary" is intended for an Executive, or whether it has another meaning. Most reports I read are not, as far as I know, intended to be read by anyone in top management, so it seems unlikely that they would have a summary intended for them.

A google search for "executive summary etymology" led me to wiktionary, where it states the etymology of the phrase is...

executive + summary

I didn't find this particularly helpful...

The wiktionary page on "executive" gives definitions as an adjective and as a noun, none of which make a lot of sense to me for use to describe a summary of a report:


1.Designed or fitted for execution, or carrying into effect.

2.Of, pertaining to, or having responsibility for the day-to-day running of an organisation, business, country, etc.; as, an executive act, an executive officer, executive government.

3.Exclusive. an executive bathroom


1.A title of a chief officer or administrator, especially one who can make significant decisions on her/his own authority.

2.That branch of government which is responsible for enforcing laws and judicial decisions, and for the day-to-day administration of the state.

  • Dumbed-down and summarized to a bare skeleton so that executives (potentially) could read it. – David Handelman Nov 9 '16 at 13:10

An executive summary is a summary of a report that provides sufficient information to allow senior management to make effective decisions without having to the read the entire report. In effect, the contents of the report provides supporting evidence for the executive summary.

So, executive means senior manager in this case.

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