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The chair or chairman is the highest office of an organized group such as a board, committee, or deliberative assembly. The person holding the office is typically elected or appointed by the members of the group. The chairman presides over meetings of the assembled group and conducts its business in an orderly fashion.[1] When the group is not in session, the chairman's duties often including acting as its head, its representative to the outside world and its spokesperson.

A vice chairman is sometimes chosen to be subordinate to and to serve in the absence of the chairman.[2] In the absence of the chairman and vice chairman, groups sometimes elect a chairman pro tem to fill the role for a single meeting.[1]

Chairman has its origins in 10th century Kingdom of England, when the king or his spokesman sat alone in a chair before the group, who sat on benches. Manus is Latin for "hand," so the chairman is one who sits in the chair and handles the meeting.[3] The term has nothing to do with gender, which is designated by addressing the official as "Mister Chairman" or "Madam Chairman."[4] In spite of this, chairwoman and chairperson are sometimes used in place of chairman. Chair is used to avoid the awkwardness and perceived sexism of the other terms.[5][6] The National Association of Parliamentarians does not approve using "chairperson."[4]

Other words sometimes used for the office and its holder include, presiding officer, president, moderator, and convener.[7][8] The chairman of a parliamentary chamber is often called the speaker[9]

Chair also refers to the place from which the holder of the office presides, whether on a chair, at a lectern, or elsewhere. During meetings, the person presiding is said to be "in the chair." He or she is also referred to as "the chair." Parliamentary procedure requires that members address the "chair" rather than the "chairman," or by using a person's name. This is one of many customs aimed at maintaining the presiding officer's impartiality and insuring an objective and impersonal approach.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 10th edition, Perseus Books Group, Cambridge MA, 2000
  2. "Vice Chairman", Unabridged (v 1.1), 2006. Retrieved on 2008-10-22.
  3. Riddick, Floyd M.; Miriam H. Butcher (1985). Riddick's Rules of Procedure. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Zimmerman, Doris P. (1997). Robert's Rules in Plain English. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0062734768. 
  5. "Chairman", Unabridged (v 1.1), 2006. Retrieved on 2008-10-22.
  6. "Chairperson", Unabridged (v 1.1), 2006. Retrieved on 2008-04-27.
  7. Sturgis, Alice (2001). The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure. New York: McGraw-Hill. 
  8. Although convener means someone who summons (convenes) a meeting, the convener may take the chair. The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition 1989) offers this citation: 1833 Act 3-4 Will. IV, c. 46 §43 “The convener, who shall preside at such committee, shall be entitled to a casting vote.” This meaning is most commonly found in assemblies with Scottish heritage.
  9. About Parliament: The Lord Speaker. Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved on 2008-10-23. “... responsibilities of the Lord Speaker include chairing the Lords debating chamber,...”