International Relations Vocabulary: A Glossary of 100+ Key Terms

The field of international relations studies how different countries and groups interact with each other to solve global issues and even crises.

Whether you’re looking to expand your vocabulary, learn more about politics or even pursue international relations as a career, this guide will fill you in on important words that are useful to know in this field.   

Each term comes with audio pronunciation and an example sentence too!


Political and Diplomatic Concepts

European Union and United Kingdom leaders shaking hands on a deal agreement

1. Alliance

An alliance is a formal agreement between two or more countries to cooperate for specific purposes. 

During the crisis, the neighboring countries formed an alliance to strengthen their defense capabilities and ensure regional stability.

2. Ambassador

An ambassador is an important high-ranking official stationed in a foreign country who represents his own country’s interests there.

The British ambassador to Germany was tasked with maintaining peaceful relations between the two countries after by the political turmoil caused by the elections. 

3. Appeasement

Appeasement is a policy of making concessions to an aggressor in order to avoid conflict. It’s a controversial strategy used in diplomatic relations, typically in situations where there’s a significant power imbalance.

To maintain peace, the government chose appeasement, allowing the rival nation some territorial gains, despite internal opposition.

4. Bilateralism

Bilateralism involves two countries working together on issues of mutual interest, such as trade, defense or cultural exchanges. It contrasts with multilateralism, where several countries work together, focusing on direct, one-to-one relationships.

The two nations engaged in bilateralism to improve trade relations and collaborate on environmental initiatives.

5. Brinkmanship

Brinkmanship is a strategy of pushing dangerous events to the brink of disaster to achieve advantageous outcomes. It involves taking risks that might lead to conflict, in the hope that the opposing party will back down first.

The leader’s brinkmanship during the negotiations almost led to war, but their gamble paid off when the opposing nation agreed to the terms.

6. Containment

Containment is a geopolitical strategy to stop the expansion of an enemy, especially in ideological conflicts like the Cold War. It involves using a variety of measures, from diplomatic to military, to keep an adversary within its current boundaries.

The strategy of containment was used to prevent the spread of communism, leading to various policies and conflicts during the Cold War era.

7. Deterrence

Deterrence is the policy of developing military power to discourage aggression by others, based on the idea of making the potential cost of aggression too high. It’s a cornerstone of many national defense strategies, often associated with the possession of nuclear weapons.

The country’s nuclear arsenal was maintained as a means of deterrence, aimed at preventing any hostile actions by potential adversaries.

8. Delegation

A delegation refers to a small group of people, representing a particular country, who have been sent elsewhere to negotiate with other people, on behalf of their country or a larger group.

Rohan went to Paris as part of the Indian delegation for a peace talk between the two countries. 

9. Diplomacy

Diplomacy is the practice of conducting negotiations and managing relations between countries, from formal negotiations to the subtle art of persuasion. Its aim is to achieve the most favorable outcome for one’s own nation.

Through skilled diplomacy, the ambassador was able to forge a peace treaty, ending years of conflict between the two countries.

10. Foreign Policy

Foreign policy is a government’s strategy in dealing with other nations. It reflects a nation’s economic interests, cultural ties, geographical position and historical relationships.

The new administration announced a shift in foreign policy to prioritize human rights and climate change in international relations.

11. Geopolitics

Geopolitics is the study of how geography and economics influence politics and the relations between countries.

The island’s strategic location has always played a significant role in the geopolitics of the region, making it a focal point of international interest.

12. Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine was a U.S. policy opposing European colonialism in the Americas, declared in 1823. It was a significant statement of American foreign policy, asserting that further European intervention in the Americas would be seen as acts of aggression.

The Monroe Doctrine was a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere, influencing America’s approach to international relations in the region for centuries.

13. Multilateralism

Multilateralism is the practice of engaging in diplomatic relations or negotiations among three or more countries, often used for addressing global challenges and fostering cooperation in international forums. It contrasts with bilateral relations that involve only two states.

The United Nations serves as a prime example of multilateralism, where member states collaborate to address issues like climate change and peacekeeping.

14. Nationalism

Nationalism is a political ideology centered on loyalty, devotion or allegiance to a nation or nation-state. It prioritizes the interests, culture or identity of a nation, sometimes to the exclusion or detriment of foreign influences. While uniting people, nationalism can also lead to conflict and xenophobia.

The resurgence of nationalism in the country fueled patriotism but also led to tensions with neighboring states.

15. Non-Aligned Movement

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a group of states not formally aligned with any major power bloc, established during the Cold War. It sought a path for states aiming to avoid alignment with the U.S. or Soviet blocs, promoting national independence and peaceful coexistence.

The Non-Aligned Movement played a key role in maintaining neutrality for its member countries during the geopolitical tensions of the Cold War.

16. Pax Americana

Pax Americana, or “American Peace,” refers to the period of relative peace in the Western world since the end of World War II in 1945, largely due to the global influence and military strength of the United States. This era is characterized by the dominance of American cultural, economic and political ideals.

During the Pax Americana period, the United States exerted considerable influence on global affairs, shaping international policies and economic systems.

17. Realpolitik

Realpolitik is a political philosophy that values practicality and power above moral considerations. It advocates for the pursuit of national self-interest and the use of power to achieve national goals, often advocating for pragmatic and adaptable policies in international relations.

The foreign policy was heavily influenced by realpolitik, prioritizing national interests and strategic partnerships over ideological commitments.

18. Sovereignty

Sovereignty is the authority of a state to govern itself without external interference. It is a fundamental principle in law, denoting a state’s legal independence and right to self-governance.

The international community recognized the country’s sovereignty over its territorial waters, affirming its status as an independent state.

19. Sphere of Influence

A sphere of influence is a region where a state or organization has significant but not formal authority. It usually involves indirect control or influence over the policies and actions of other regions.

The superpower’s sphere of influence over its neighbors impacted its foreign policies and economic decisions.

20. Statecraft

Statecraft refers to the skillful handling of state affairs and the art of government and diplomacy. It includes policy-making, diplomatic negotiations and the strategic implementation of policies to advance national interests.

The president demonstrated exceptional statecraft in navigating complex international crises and sustaining stable

21. Truman Doctrine

The Truman Doctrine was a U.S. policy established in 1947, aimed at containing the spread of communism. It asserted that the U.S. would support countries resisting armed minorities or outside pressures, particularly in the context of the Cold War. This doctrine was a significant shift in American foreign policy, symbolizing the beginning of the Cold War era.

The Truman Doctrine led to significant U.S. support for Greece and Turkey to prevent them from falling into the Soviet sphere.

22. Unilateralism

Unilateralism is a foreign policy approach where a state acts independently without the agreement or support of other states. This approach often involves making decisions and conducting actions based solely on a nation’s own interests or beliefs, sometimes disregarding international consensus or norms.

The country’s unilateral decision to withdraw from the treaty sparked concerns about the impact on global diplomatic relations.

International Law and Organizations

United Nations headquarters in New York City

23. Arbitration

Arbitration is a method of resolving disputes outside of courts, where a neutral third party makes a binding decision. It is commonly used in international disputes when parties want to avoid the complexities and formalities of court procedures.

The two companies agreed to arbitration to settle their commercial dispute efficiently.

24. Concordat

A concordat is an agreement between the Holy See of the Catholic Church and a sovereign state. Concordats often deal with issues related to religious education, the appointment of bishops and the recognition of church marriages and other rites.

The government signed a concordat with the Vatican to address the role of religion in public education.

25. Consulate

A consulate is a diplomatic office or representation of a country in a foreign city, distinct from the embassy. Consulates handle minor diplomatic issues like issuing visas, aiding in trade relations and taking care of citizens from their country living or traveling abroad.

The consulate provided assistance to tourists from their country who lost their passports during their trip abroad.

26. G20

The G20 is an international forum of 19 countries, the African Union and the European Union, representing major economies, both developed and developing. The group focuses on addressing key issues in global economic policy and sustainable development.

The G20 Summit convened to discuss strategies for tackling global economic challenges and enhancing international financial cooperation.

27. G7 or G8

The G7, originally the G8, is a forum of the world’s major developed economies. The G7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Russia was part of the G8 until its suspension in 2014.

The G7/G8 has played a crucial role in addressing economic crises and coordinating global economic policy.

28. Intergovernmental Organization (IGO)

Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) are entities created by treaty between sovereign states to work on common interests. These organizations, such as the United Nations or the African Union, address a wide range of issues including economic development, environmental policy and human rights.

The intergovernmental organization facilitated negotiations between the countries to promote regional peace and cooperation.

29. International Law

International law is a system of treaties and agreements that govern the interactions between nations. It covers a broad spectrum of issues, including human rights, international conflicts, trade and environmental law and is essential for maintaining global order and justice.

The nations resolved their maritime dispute in accordance with established principles of international law.

30. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)

NATO is a military alliance established in 1949 between North American and European countries. It was formed for mutual defense against aggression and has expanded its scope to include crisis management and counter-terrorism. 

NATO conducted joint military exercises to enhance readiness and interoperability among member nations.

31. Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are independent, non-profit groups that operate worldwide to address social, political, environmental or humanitarian issues. NGOs, such as the Red Cross or Amnesty International, often fill gaps in services not provided by governments.

The non-governmental organization launched an international campaign to raise awareness about human rights abuses in conflict zones.

32. Non-State Actors

Non-state actors are individuals or groups that hold influence and are capable of affecting change but are not affiliated with any particular country’s government. These include multinational corporations, terrorist groups or NGOs.

The role of non-state actors in global diplomacy has increased significantly, often influencing policy decisions and implementation.

33. Rogue State

A rogue state is a nation that is considered to pose a threat to the peace and stability of the world. These states often defy international laws and norms, possibly engaging in activities like sponsoring terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction or committing human rights abuses. Rogue states are frequently subjected to international sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

The international community condemned the rogue state for its nuclear proliferation activities.

34. Security Council

The Security Council is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, charged with maintaining international peace and security. Comprising 15 members, including five permanent members with veto power, it is responsible for assessing global security threats, implementing peacekeeping missions and imposing sanctions.

The Security Council passed a resolution to deploy peacekeeping forces to the conflict-ridden region.

35. Supranational Organization

A supranational organization is a multinational union where member countries transcend national boundaries or interests to work on shared goals. These organizations, like the European Union, involve ceding some degree of national sovereignty to achieve broader, collective objectives, typically in areas like trade, security and legislation.

The supranational organization introduced new environmental regulations that all member states agreed to implement.

36. Treaty

A treaty is a formally concluded and ratified agreement between states. Treaties are used to regulate relationships between nations, covering areas such as peace, trade, defense, territorial boundaries and human rights. Once ratified, treaties have the force of law and are binding on the parties involved.

The two countries signed a treaty to demarcate their border and enhance bilateral trade relations.

37. United Nations (UN)

The United Nations (UN) is an international organization founded in 1945 to promote global peace, security and cooperation. With member states from around the world, it addresses issues such as human rights, international law, development and humanitarian aid. The UN plays a crucial role in facilitating international diplomacy and conflict resolution.

The United Nations General Assembly met to discuss strategies for sustainable global development.

Economic Policies 

hand holding a plane over a world map

38. Economic Espionage

Economic espionage involves the theft or misappropriation of trade secrets, proprietary information or intellectual property by foreign governments or competitors for economic advantage. It is a significant concern for businesses and governments.

The company fell victim to economic espionage when confidential designs were illicitly obtained by a rival firm.

39. Economic Integration

Economic integration is the process where countries reduce trade and investment barriers to create a single market. It can range from free trade agreements, which eliminate tariffs between members, to full economic unions, which harmonize monetary and fiscal policies among member states.

The regional economic integration effort led to the formation of a common market, boosting trade and investment among the member countries.

40. Economic Sanctions

Economic sanctions are penalties imposed by one or more countries against a targeted country, group or individual. Sanctions can include various forms of trade barriers, tariffs and restrictions on financial transactions. They are used as tools for diplomacy, typically to influence political or social change.

In response to the human rights violations, several countries imposed economic sanctions against the offending nation.

41. Embargo

An embargo is a government order that restricts commerce or the exchange of specific goods with a specified country. Embargoes are often imposed for political, economic or social reasons and can significantly impact the economy of the targeted nation.

The international community placed an embargo on arms sales to the conflict-affected region.

42. Global Commons

Global commons refers to resource domains that lie outside the political reach of any one nation-state. They are considered shared resources and include the high seas, the atmosphere, outer space and the Antarctic. The management and preservation of global commons is a focus of international law and environmental policy.

Climate change negotiations often focus on the global commons, emphasizing the need for collective action to protect these shared resources.

43. Globalization

Globalization is the process of increased interconnectedness and interdependence among countries. It involves the expansion of international trade and investment, the spread of technology and the exchange of ideas and culture across borders. 

The rise of Globalization has led to more multinational corporations and a more integrated global economy.

44. Mercantilism

Mercantilism is an economic theory and practice prevalent in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century, emphasizing a nation’s wealth as the main source of its power. It advocates for a positive balance of trade, export subsidies and the accumulation of gold and silver. Mercantilism often led to colonial expansion and trade wars.

The mercantilism policy in the 17th century encouraged European powers to establish colonies for raw materials and markets.

45. Tariff

A tariff is a tax imposed by a government on imported or exported goods. Tariffs are used to control trade policies, protect domestic industries from foreign competition and generate revenue. They can also be a tool in trade negotiations.

The government imposed a tariff on imported steel to protect the domestic steel industry.

46. Trade Bloc

A trade bloc is a group of countries that have formed an agreement to significantly reduce or eliminate trade barriers among them. Common forms include free trade areas, customs unions and common markets. Trade blocs aim to increase economic cooperation and boost trade among member countries.

The European Union is an example of a trade bloc, allowing free movement of goods and services among its member states.

47. Transnational Corporation

A transnational corporation (TNC) is a large company that operates in multiple countries. TNCs are key players in the global economy, producing, marketing and managing their products and services across national borders.

Transnational corporations like Apple and Toyota have extensive operations and supply chains spread across different continents.

Conflict, War and Military Strategies

cadets practicing on a field

48. Arms Control

Arms control refers to international agreements to control the development, testing, production and deployment of weapons, especially weapons of mass destruction. These agreements aim to reduce the risk of conflict, prevent arms races and promote global security.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) is an example of an arms control agreement between major powers.

49. Asymmetrical Warfare

Asymmetrical warfare is a type of conflict where the participating parties have significantly unequal military capabilities and the weaker party uses unconventional tactics to exploit the vulnerabilities of the stronger opponent. It often involves guerrilla warfare, terrorism and cyber warfare.

The insurgent group engaged in asymmetrical warfare by using guerrilla tactics against the technologically superior army.

50. Cold War

The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies from the late 1940s to the early 1990s. Characterized by political, military and ideological rivalry, it involved espionage, propaganda and proxy wars, but stopped short of direct armed conflict between the superpowers.

The Cold War influenced global politics and led to various regional conflicts around the world.

51. Coup D’état

A coup d’état is a sudden, illegal overthrow of a government, typically executed by a small group of people from within the existing state structure, such as the military. Coups are often carried out with the goal of replacing the current leadership with new rulers.

The military’s coup d’état toppled the elected government and established a new regime.

52. Espionage

Espionage involves secretly gathering sensitive or classified information from individuals or entities without their knowledge, typically for military, political or economic purposes. It is an important aspect of statecraft and is used by governments to gain strategic advantages over adversaries.

The spy was arrested for espionage after being caught transmitting confidential government documents to a foreign power.

53. Hybrid Warfare

Hybrid warfare is a military strategy that blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyber warfare. This approach uses a mix of military and non-military tools, including propaganda, cyber attacks and political subversion, to destabilize and undermine an opponent. Hybrid warfare is characterized by its ambiguity and non-traditional tactics.

In recent conflicts, hybrid warfare tactics have been used to exploit the vulnerabilities of conventional armed forces.

54. Iron Curtain

The Iron Curtain was a political boundary dividing Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II until the end of the Cold War. The term symbolizes the ideological conflict and physical boundary separating the Soviet bloc and the West, particularly in terms of limiting travel and communication.

The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

55. Jus Ad Bellum

Jus ad bellum (“right to war”) refers to the set of criteria that need to be met for a war to be considered just or legitimate. These typically include having a just cause (such as self-defense) and being declared by a legitimate authority.

The debate over the invasion focused on whether it met the jus ad bellum criteria for a just war.

56. Jus In Bello

Jus in bello (“justice in war”) addresses the lawful conduct within war. It is primarily concerned with how warfare is conducted, regardless of the reason for the war. It is guided by principles such as distinction, proportionality and military necessity, ensuring that combatants and civilians are treated humanely and that the means used are not excessive or unjustified.

The military tribunal investigated whether the army’s actions complied with jus in bello regulations.

57. Kinetic Warfare

Kinetic warfare refers to traditional military action involving physical force, as opposed to cyber warfare or psychological operations. It encompasses the use of troops, tanks, artillery and other conventional weapons to inflict damage on an enemy. 

The conflict escalated into kinetic warfare with both sides deploying ground forces and heavy artillery.

58. Nuclear Deterrence

Nuclear deterrence is a military strategy based on the possession of nuclear weapons to deter a potential aggressor from taking military action. The theory holds that the threat of catastrophic consequences from a nuclear response will prevent adversaries from using their own nuclear weapons or engaging in major acts of aggression.

The concept of nuclear deterrence played a key role in maintaining the balance of power during the Cold War.

59. Prisoner of War

A prisoner of war (POW) is a combatant, or a member of a military force or combatant group, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict. International laws, such as the Geneva Conventions, set standards for the humane treatment and release of POWs.

The captured soldiers were treated according to the international standards for prisoners of war.

60. Proxy Conflict

A proxy conflict occurs when two or more powerful countries use third parties to fight on their behalf rather than fighting each other directly. These conflicts often happen in a third country and can be part of a larger struggle for power or influence between the major powers.

The regional war was intensified by becoming a proxy conflict for two competing superpowers.

61. Proxy War

A proxy war is a conflict where two opposing countries support combatants that serve their interests instead of waging war directly. In these wars, major powers provide support—such as military aid, training or funding—to local forces who represent their interests.

The Vietnam War was a notable example of a proxy war during the Cold War era.

62. Regime Change

Regime change refers to the replacement of a country’s government with another regime, often through external intervention or internal uprising. This can occur through democratic elections, coups, revolutions or foreign military intervention. 

The foreign intervention in the civil war was aimed at achieving a regime change in the troubled country.

63. Secession

Secession is the act of a region or group withdrawing from a larger political entity, typically a nation-state, to form a separate political entity or pursue independence. This can occur through a unilateral declaration or through a negotiated process with the parent state. Secession movements often arise from cultural, ethnic or political differences.

The region’s call for secession led to a significant political and constitutional crisis in the country.

64. Strategic Depth

Strategic depth is a military and geopolitical concept that refers to the distances between the potential front lines or battle sectors and the core of the national territory. Having strategic depth allows a country more space and time to respond to military invasions.

The country’s large territory provided it with significant strategic depth against potential military invasions.

65. War Crimes

War crimes are serious violations of the laws and customs of war, which include mistreatment of prisoners of war, targeting civilians, committing genocide and other acts of brutality and inhumanity. These crimes are tried in international courts, such as the International Criminal Court.

The international tribunal charged several military leaders with war crimes for their actions during the conflict.

66. War of Attrition

A war of attrition is a military strategy in which one side attempts to win a conflict by wearing down its enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses. 

The prolonged siege turned into a war of attrition, with both sides suffering heavy losses over time.

Human Rights and Culture 

first aid kit for disasters

67. Cultural Diplomacy

Cultural diplomacy involves the exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples to foster mutual understanding and respect. It is used by governments to build cultural bridges and enhance socio-political relationships.

The embassy organized a cultural festival as part of its cultural diplomacy efforts to strengthen ties between the two countries.

68. Cultural Imperialism

Cultural imperialism refers to the practice of promoting and imposing a culture, usually that of a larger or more powerful country, over a less powerful society. This can occur through media, language, education and can lead to the erosion of the native culture’s values and identity.

The spread of Western media has been cited as an example of cultural imperialism in some non-Western countries.

69. Cultural Relativism

Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual’s beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of that individual’s own culture. This perspective argues against making judgments about cultural practices using the standards of one’s own culture, emphasizing understanding and tolerance of cultural differences.

Anthropologists often adopt cultural relativism in their study of other societies to avoid ethnocentrism.

70. Diaspora

Diaspora refers to a group of people who live outside their ancestral or native land. Diasporas often maintain strong ties to their homeland and can play significant roles in the cultural, economic and political life of the countries they reside in, as well as their country of origin.

The Indian diaspora around the world has been influential in promoting Indian culture and business interests globally.

71. Diaspora Diplomacy

Diaspora diplomacy involves engaging a country’s diaspora to contribute to diplomatic and development efforts. This can include leveraging the diaspora’s resources, networks and knowledge to promote trade, investment and cultural exchanges, as well as to influence foreign policy and international relations.

The government’s diaspora diplomacy program aimed to harness the skills and connections of its citizens living abroad.

72. Ecological Diplomacy

Ecological diplomacy involves international negotiations and policies focused on environmental issues and challenges. This type of diplomacy seeks to address global ecological problems, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, through cooperation among nations.

The international conference on climate change was a key example of ecological diplomacy in action.

73. Ethnonationalism

Ethnonationalism is a form of nationalism in which the nation is defined in terms of ethnicity. It can lead to a strong sense of identity and a desire for an independent nation-state for that ethnic group.

The rise of ethnonationalism in the region has led to increased tensions and demands for autonomy.

74. Human Rights

Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, from birth until death. These are fundamental for ensuring a fair and just society.

The international organization campaigned to promote human rights and fight against discrimination and oppression.

75. Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarian aid involves providing assistance, usually in response to a humanitarian crisis caused by natural disasters, conflict or other emergencies. It aims to save lives and alleviate suffering. Aid can include food, water, shelter, medical assistance and other basic needs.

In response to the earthquake, several countries and NGOs provided humanitarian aid to the affected regions.

76. Humanitarian Intervention

Humanitarian intervention is the use of military force by a country or group of countries to stop human rights abuses or suffering in another country, often without the permission of the country in which intervention occurs.

The NATO-led humanitarian intervention in Kosovo aimed to stop the widespread atrocities and displacement of civilians.

77. Political Asylum

Political asylum is protection granted by a nation to someone who has fled their own country due to political persecution or fear of persecution.

The dissident sought political asylum in the embassy, fearing for his life in his home country.

Global and Regional Issues

hand holding a small globe

78. Balkanization

Balkanization refers to the division of a region, state or organization into smaller, often hostile units. The term originates from the Balkan Peninsula, where numerous states emerged after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.

The Balkanization of the former Yugoslavia led to the creation of several independent countries.

79. Buffer State

A buffer state is a smaller country situated between two larger, potentially hostile powers. It serves to prevent or diminish conflict between them.

Mongolia historically acted as a buffer state between Russia and China.

80. Colonialism

Colonialism is the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers and exploiting it economically.

The era of European colonialism in Africa dramatically altered the continent’s political and cultural landscape.

81. Colonization

Colonization is the process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area. It often involves cultural assimilation and economic exploitation.

The colonization of the Americas by European settlers had profound effects on the native populations.

82. Constructivism

Constructivism is a theory in international relations that emphasizes the social construction of global politics, focusing on the role of ideas, norms and identities in shaping state behavior.

Constructivism explains how the fall of the Berlin Wall was not just a geopolitical shift but also a change in political identities and ideas.

83. Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

A Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is an area, often a border region, where military forces and installations are prohibited. It’s established to act as a buffer zone to reduce tensions between countries or opposing military forces.

The Korean Demilitarized Zone separates North and South Korea, serving as a buffer between the two nations.

84. Ethnocracy

Ethnocracy is a type of political structure where a particular ethnic group holds a disproportionate amount of government power, often at the expense of other ethnic groups.

In an ethnocracy, government policies and decisions tend to favor the dominant ethnic group.

85. Extraterritoriality

Extraterritoriality refers to the state of being exempted from the jurisdiction of local law, typically as the result of diplomatic negotiations. It often applies to foreign diplomats or international organizations.

The foreign embassy enjoys extraterritoriality, making it subject to the laws of its home country rather than the host country.

86. Failed State

A failed state is a political body that has disintegrated to a point where basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government no longer function properly. It often includes widespread lawlessness and extreme economic and social decline.

Somalia was often cited as a failed state due to its prolonged civil war and lack of a central government.

87. Fifth Column

A fifth column is a group of people who secretly undermine a larger group, such as a nation, from within. Originally a military term, it now also refers to any covert supporters of an enemy within a country.

During the war, a fifth column within the city was accused of aiding the enemy by engaging in sabotage.

88. Global Governance

Global governance involves the systems of rule at all levels of human society, from the local to the international, that are used to manage global issues. It includes formal institutions and regimes, as well as informal arrangements that people and institutions have agreed to.

The United Nations is a key player in global governance, addressing issues that transcend national boundaries.

89. Global South

The Global South refers to the regions of Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania, which are generally considered in terms of their economic development, as being less developed economically than the Global North. This term has replaced “Third World” in contemporary discussions.

Many countries in the Global South are focusing on sustainable development to improve their economic status.

90. Hard Power

Hard power refers to a country’s ability to use military or economic means to influence the behavior or interests of other political bodies. It often involves the use of force, sanctions or economic inducements.

The United States has historically relied on hard power to maintain its global influence, particularly through its military capabilities.

91. Interstate Conflict

Interstate conflict is a type of conflict occurring between sovereign states. It encompasses wars, military conflicts and disputes between countries, often involving issues of territory, resources or political dominance.

The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was an example of an interstate conflict that led to significant regional changes.

92. Lebensraum

Lebensraum, meaning “living space,” was a geopolitical concept used by Nazi Germany to justify expansion into Eastern Europe. It asserted a territorial expansionist policy based on the need for agricultural land to sustain the German people.

Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland was partly justified by the concept of Lebensraum.

93. Liberalism

Liberalism in international relations is a theory that emphasizes the role of individuals, international institutions and global norms in shaping state behavior. It advocates for democratic governance, free trade and the protection of human rights.

The European Union is often seen as an embodiment of liberalism, with its emphasis on cooperation, democracy and human rights.

94. Microstate

A microstate is a sovereign state having a very small population or very small land area, and usually both. These states typically have limited economic resources and rely heavily on larger nations for support.

Liechtenstein is an example of a microstate, with its small size and population yet high standard of living.

95. Neocolonialism

Neocolonialism is the practice of using economic, political and cultural pressures to control or influence a country, particularly former dependencies and colonies. It suggests that even after achieving formal independence, the economic and political policies of some states are still shaped by external forces.

Some African nations face neocolonialism through economic dependence on and influence from former colonial powers.

96. Non-Proliferation

Non-proliferation refers to efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. This is often pursued through international treaties and agreements, like the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The international community supports non-proliferation initiatives to ensure nuclear weapons do not fall into the wrong hands.

97. Peace Process

The Peace Process is a series of negotiations and actions taken by conflicting parties to end hostilities and reach a sustainable peace agreement. It often involves international mediators and a series of diplomatic efforts.

The Middle East peace process has seen various efforts and negotiations over the years to resolve the region’s longstanding conflicts.

98. Peacebuilding

Peacebuilding involves creating conditions for lasting peace in societies recovering from conflict. It includes addressing root causes of violence, supporting reconciliation and rebuilding governmental and social structures.

Post-conflict peacebuilding efforts in Rwanda have focused on reconciliation and nation-building.

99. Peacekeeping

Peacekeeping refers to the efforts of the international community, often through the United Nations, to help maintain peace and security in conflict-ridden areas. It typically involves military personnel, police and civilian personnel.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon plays a crucial role in maintaining stability in the region.

100. Self-Determination

Self-determination is the right of people to determine their own political status and to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. This principle is key in international law and relations.

The movement for self-determination in Catalonia has led to significant political discourse in Spain.

101. Smart Power

Smart power is a term used to describe the combination of hard power (military strength) and soft power (diplomatic and cultural influence) in a balanced way to achieve foreign policy objectives.

The United States employs smart power by combining military aid and cultural diplomacy in its international relations.

102. Soft Power

Soft power is the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion, typically through cultural, diplomatic and economic means.

Japan’s soft power is evident in its global cultural influence, particularly through its cuisine and entertainment industry.

103. State Actor

A state actor is an individual or organization that operates on behalf of a governmental body and is involved in international relations or politics.

The embassy official, as a state actor, represented his country’s interests at the international conference.

104. Stateless Nation

A stateless nation is a group of people with a common identity who do not have a territory considered to be a sovereign state. These nations often strive for national self-determination.

The Kurds are an example of a stateless nation, with a distinct cultural identity but no official state of their own.

106. Territorial Integrity

Territorial integrity refers to the principle that the defined territory of a state is inviolable and must be respected by other states. This concept is fundamental in international law and relations, ensuring that national borders are not violated or altered without lawful and mutual agreement.

Upholding territorial integrity is crucial for maintaining international peace and stability.

107. Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism is a political system where the state holds total authority over society and seeks to control all aspects of public and private life. In such regimes, political power is often held by a single party or leader, and there is little or no tolerance for political dissent.

George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ depicts a dystopian society under totalitarianism, where the government exerts complete control over its citizens.

108. Transnational Issues

Transnational Issues are problems that transcend national borders and require a collective approach to solve. These include global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, pandemics and international crime.

Climate change is a transnational issue that impacts countries around the world and requires global cooperation to address effectively.

Bonus: Free Online Courses for Learning More

Knowing the right words to use is a good start, but once you’ve learned all the words in this post, you might want to further broaden your learning. Whether you’re studying the subject and language on your own or you’re looking for some good online resources to supplement your learning, make it a point to sign up for these MOOCs available for free on Coursera to complete your English for international relations education.

1. Business English: Networking

This course by the University of Washington is specifically focused on the language and strategies used in networking events to build the right contacts. Thus, it covers many of the skills you need to succeed in international relations.

2. Global Diplomacy in the Modern World

This course, taught by Dr. J. Simon Rofe of the University of London is a great introduction to the field of international studies and global diplomacy. It will help you develop your vocabulary and give you a critical understanding of how global issues are dealt with.

3. Global Trends for Business and Society

This course from the University of Pennsylvania combines the best of business English and international relations. It will teach you all about global trends and their effects on geopolitical relationships between countries, consumers and labor markets and more.

To grow your English vocabulary, you can also practice with FluentU, which  has lessons based on business-related video clips, interviews and talks. 


The vocabulary above are a great starting point for you to do more research and discover more information about the field of international relations.

Invest in a good dictionary and some textbooks, sign up for one of the above-mentioned courses and keep studying and applying all you learn. Closely follow international business news and politics and try to analyze them. You can even read editorial articles on the web or in magazines to sharpen your vocabulary, language and critical perspective.

Make it a point to learn every day and regularly revise, and you’ll be destined for global success.

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