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(prō`təkŏl), term referring to rules governing diplomatic conduct or to a variety of written instruments. Examples of the latter are authenticated minutes of international conferences; preliminary agreements, or statements of principle, which eventuate in a formal treaty; and agreements that do not require ratification. Sometimes the term protocol is applied to an agreement that in all essentials of form or content is similar to a treaty; an example of this was the Geneva Protocol approved by the Assembly of the League of Nations in 1924, which branded aggressive war an international crime. It provided that no signatory would engage in war with other signatories who observed their international obligations. Signatories were to participate in an international disarmament conference. The protocol was supported by most nations, but British refusal to support it in the League Council prevented it from coming into force. The Locarno PactLocarno Pact,
1925, concluded at a conference held at Locarno, Switzerland, by representatives of Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.
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 and the Kellogg-Briand PactKellogg-Briand Pact
, agreement, signed Aug. 27, 1928, condemning "recourse to war for the solution of international controversies." It is more properly known as the Pact of Paris. In June, 1927, Aristide Briand, foreign minister of France, proposed to the U.S.
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 were later agreements having the general tenor of the Geneva Protocol. Diplomatic protocol is the code of international courtesy governing the conduct of those in the diplomatic servicediplomatic service,
organized body of agents maintained by governments to communicate with one another. Origins

Until the 15th cent. any formal communication or negotiation among nations was conducted either by means of ambassadors specially appointed for a
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 or otherwise engaged in international relations. It is basically concerned with procedural matters and precedence among diplomats. Each office of foreign affairs (or equivalent body) has an official in charge of protocol.


See J. T. Shotwell, Plans and Protocols to End War (1925); J. R. Wood, Diplomatic Ceremonial and Protocol (1970); J. E. Lott, Practical Protocol: A Guide to International Courtesies (1973); P. Kattenburg, Diplomatic Practices (1980); M. McCaffree and P. Innes, Protocol (rev. ed. 1985).



a body of generally accepted rules, traditions, and conventions observed by governments, departments of foreign affairs, diplomatic representatives and employees, and other officials in international relations.

Protocol determines the order of visits, the forms of diplomatic correspondence, and the procedure for diplomatic receptions. It regulates the manner of receiving a foreign head of state, the head of government of a foreign state, and other foreign dignitaries and governmental delegations. All countries adhere to the rules of protocol, although each country applies them with due regard for its social structure, national characteristics, and customs.


(computer science)
A set of hardware and software interfaces in a terminal or computer which allows it to transmit over a communications network, and which collectively forms a communications language.
(science and technology)
A procedure that must be used when performing specified measurements or related operations in order for results to be acceptable to the specifying agency.


1. the formal etiquette and code of behaviour, precedence, and procedure for state and diplomatic ceremonies
2. a memorandum or record of an agreement, esp one reached in international negotiations, a meeting, etc.
a. an amendment to a treaty or convention
b. an annexe appended to a treaty to deal with subsidiary matters or to render the treaty more lucid
c. a formal international agreement or understanding on some matter
4. Philosophy a statement that is immediately verifiable by experience
5. Computing the set form in which data must be presented for handling by a particular computer configuration, esp in the transmission of information between different computer systems


A set of formal rules describing how to transmit data, especially across a network. Low level protocols define the electrical and physical standards to be observed, bit- and byte-ordering and the transmission and error detection and correction of the bit stream. High level protocols deal with the data formatting, including the syntax of messages, the terminal to computer dialogue, character sets, sequencing of messages etc.

Many protocols are defined by RFCs or by OSI.

See also handshaking.


The format and procedure that governs the transmitting and receiving of data. The term comes from the Greek "protokollon," which was the cover page to a manuscript that provided a description of the contents. See communications protocol, protocol stack and OSI.
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