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An attache is (1) a specialist working with someone else (usually an ambassador) in a diplomatic mission; or (2) a small, rectangular briefcase (the full term is attache case). The French word from which the English word derives has an accent over the e (attaché), and spelling the word with the accent is of course not wrong. English is not kind to these marks, though, and the accent is usually dropped—but we still pronounce the word in the French manner (attashay).

The French word is a past participle of the verb attacher, which means to attach, so attache means, literally, attached. It came to English in the 19th century and was initially used exclusively in contexts relating to diplomacy.1 The term for the case developed around the beginning of the 20th century.2


Siegl is a former Austrian cultural attache (and long-time motorcycle racer) who came to Harrisville from New York five years ago. [Boston Globe]

Joseph Kruzich, press attache at the US embassy in Moscow, told Russian media that Washington had officially expressed concern. [BBC]

And yet, when he leaked the case to Congress, he carried the institutional imprimatur of the FBI in his attaché case. [Daily Beast]

In a statement released in Canberra, Mongolian attache Hantulga Galaazagraa said Ms Armstrong’s had been prevented from leaving. [Australian]


1. Attache in the OED (subscription required)
2. Attache case in the OED