For example, I have a document that has the signatures of three people, all public servants: a tax collector,an inspector, and a school principal. How could I collectively describe these three people?

This entry offers signatory but it implies a party to a contract.

  • 1
    I suppose it depends on why they are signing. If they're not a party of the agreement/contract of the document, they might be a "witness". Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 15:15
  • 4
    I think signatory doesn't necessarily apply just to contracts. There is the obscure word attestant, which means a person who attests to the genuineness of a document or signature by adding his or her own signature wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/…
    – JLG
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 15:23
  • 3
    The terminology may largely depend on the place and the nature of the document. It is rare that one document is actually signed by three public service officers from diffrent branches of government. It is more likely that one is the Issuer of the (?certificate) document and the others are Attestors.
    – Kris
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 17:18
  • In your case, 'signatory' is not appropriate.
    – Kris
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 17:19
  • The reason for signing does matter. I could imagine the scenario you describe involving each signing their own certification of compliance with a list of requirements. In this case "certifier" might be more appropriate and "signer" might be more generic if the reason for signing isn't relevant.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 2:24

5 Answers 5


(Props to @JLG for making me look this up.) Signatory need not refer simply to a party in a contract. While some dictionaries define it that way:

NOAD: a party that has signed an agreement, esp. a country that has signed a treaty

Collins English Dictionary (via Dictionary.com): person who has signed a document such as a treaty or contract or an organization, state, etc, on whose behalf such a document has been signed

Cambridge Dictionaries Online: a person, organization or country which has signed an agreement

Oxford Dictionaries Online: a party that has signed an agreement, especially a state that has signed a treaty: Britain is a signatory to the convention

Others define it more broadly.

M-W: a signer with another or others signatories to a petition; especially : a government bound with others by a signed convention

Random House Dictionary (via Dictionary.com): a signer, or one of the signers, of a document: France and Holland were among the signatories of the treaty.

Wikipedia: The writer of a signature is a signatory.

Notice, however, that these last three seem to be more layman's dictionaries than comprehensive ones. In light of this, it would seem that it is all right to use signatory in informal or non-official usage, but that a better word might be needed for official use.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.


Why not signers, as in the signers of the Declaration of Independence?


Many dictionaries suggest the use of signee.

NOAD and Oxford Dictionaries Online: a person who has signed a contract or other official document.

M-W (sign): a : to affix a signature to : ratify or attest by hand or seal sign a bill into law, sign a confession b : to assign or convey formally signed over his property to his brother c : to write down (one's name) d : to affix one's name to a signed review

Dictionary.com (quoting the Random House Dictionary): a person who signs a document, register, etc.; signer; signatory: a signee of the declaration of independence.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

  • 2
    You buried the lede: The answer is signatory
    – Robusto
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 15:48
  • @Robusto, I don't get it. However, JLG's comment made me go and look up signatory; see my other answer.
    – zpletan
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 15:56
  • 1
    Generally, an -er is the person who does something, and the -ee is the person who receives the action (Payer, payee; lessor, lessee). How is signee someone who signs?
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 16:32
  • The online OED also gives for 'signee': 'A person who has signed a contract, petition, register, etc' Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 16:38
  • @AndrewLeach, -ee in NOAD: "2 denoting a person described as or concerned with : absentee | patentee"; in Random House (@Dictionary.com): "recent formations now also mark the performer of an act, with the base being an intransitive verb (escapee; returnee; standee) or, less frequently, a transitive verb (attendee) or another part of speech (absentee; refugee)."
    – zpletan
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 16:42

Notary is possibly what you seek. From Chambers,

Notary - An official authorized to certify deeds, contracts, copies of documents, affidavits, etc (generally notary public)

EDIT: If you are in India, you are possibly referring to a gazetted officer. I do not know if the same term is used elsewhere. Wiki does not say so.

  • 6
    No, a notary is a specific occupation, with required training and certification and licensing. Notice the word "authorized" in the definition. Neither a tax collector, an inspector, or a school principal are likely to also be notaries.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 15:36
  • 1
    @Marthaª: Thanks, I think the answer should be a gazetted officer.
    – Bravo
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 15:41
  • 2
    I've never heard the term gazetted officer. If I had to guess at a meaning, I'd think something military. I would not in a million years come up with "someone who signed a document". And looking at the page you linked, it looks like this is an Indian version of notary, so still very much not the meaning the OP is after.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 16:00
  • @Martha Any of these people MIGHT be a notary, but this would be irrelevant to the fact that they signed the document. :-)
    – Jay
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 17:31
  • 1
    -1. A 'Gazetted officer' is one authorized to attest douments, similar to a 'Notary': not the one who has originally signed (and issued) the document. The terms may not be relevent everywhere (outside India).
    – Kris
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 17:31

In the context you're describing, a term like "authorized person", "official", "appropriate official", etc might be what you're looking for.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.