There is a word which describes a person with power and possibly political influence over a certain sphere who has no actual (governmental) position. Please, could someone kindly suggest such a word.

  • thank you, it's not quite I was looking for but thank you for the help
    – Anna
    Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 6:53
  • 3
    Hello and welcome to ELU. Please edit your question to cite an example. King-makers, advisors, public servants and others might all fit, depending on what you have in mind. In some contexts, religious leaders and the spouses of people in government might also be considered to have such power and political influence, as might advertisers and the media.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 8:51

6 Answers 6


maybe you mean

Power behind the throne:

the person who secretly controls a country, organization, etc., by controlling the actions and decisions of the official leader

Source: Merriam Webster

  • 1
    Thank you, I was looking for eminence grise which is very close to your phrase.
    – Anna
    Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 6:49

éminence grise, Wikipedia

An éminence grise (French pronunciation: ​[eminɑ̃s ɡʁiz]) or grey eminence is a powerful decision-maker or adviser who operates "behind the scenes" or, in a non-public or unofficial capacity.

éminence grise is a French phrase that has been adopted into English. It is in English dictionaries, such as Oxford English Dictionaries:

A person who exercises power or influence in a certain sphere without holding an official position.

‘for years he has been an éminence grise operating in the shadows of party policy-making’

For the origin of the term, see Merriam-Webster. I quote a portion of the M-W explanation:

Éminence grise (literally, "gray eminence") was the sobriquet of Père Joseph (1577-1638), the Capuchin monk who served as secretary to Cardinal Richelieu, Chief Minister under Louis XIII. ......Joseph's nickname came from the color of his cloak-and from the fact that Richelieu himself was known as the Éminence Rouge (Red Eminence).

  • 1
    Also, "Gray eminence, the English equivalent of éminence grise, was used in 1941 by Aldous Huxley as the title of his study of Père Joseph. Huxley's own prestige probably helped to establish the English equivalent as well as popularize the French original." The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories p.157 books.google.co.in/…
    – Kris
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 7:08

Pulling the strings

compares the situation to someone controlling a puppet and highlights that there are unseen reasons for their decisions.


Opinion maker

There are many influential people in different spheres--art, the economy, sports, foreign affairs, public policy--who hold no position in any government or government body (e.g., the United Nations). They may be consulted by those in political positions or express their views through books, articles, teaching, speaking, social media, message boards, television interviews, the organizations they lead, and so forth.

TIME magazine organizes its annual list of the most influential people in the categories Pioneers, Artists, Leaders, Titans, and Icons.

TIME's list for 2017

Some people in these categories hold government positions; others don't.

The 100 Most Influential People


A de facto leader (as opposed to a de jure leader) ?

De facto.
In Latin de facto means according to fact, and this is roughly what it means in English. It’s defined as in reality or fact, but its de facto definition is closer to serving a function or filling a role without being officially assigned to that function or role. For example, a de facto leader of a group is someone who has not been officially designated leader yet functions in that role. De facto is sometimes contrasted with de jure, which means according to law or officially.


Formally, in government (at least in Britain) such a person is usually described by the Latin term ex officio - e.g. "an ex officio member of the Cabinet".

Example from OED: 1970 M. Stocks My Commonplace Book 203 And as Principal of a constituent college of London University I was ex-officio a member of its Senate and of its Collegiate Council, as well as of many ad hoc appointments committees.

In the business world there are such people as non-executive directors. But formally they are appointed, though they do not play a day-to-day part in the management. But I suppose that is something rather different.

  • -1 Please look up "ex-officio" in a good dictionary.
    – Kris
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 6:49
  • @Kris What did you discover when you did that?
    – WS2
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 7:04
  • I didn't have to. The term means something opposite of what we are looking for. Please give it a thought.
    – Kris
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 7:09
  • @Kris I will note for future reference that you are a walking dictionary.
    – WS2
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 7:11
  • I'm not always walking, though :D
    – Kris
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 7:14

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