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A mayor (from the Latin maīor, meaning "larger","greater") is the politician who serves as chief executive official of some types of municipalities. Worldwide, there is a wide variance in local laws and customs as to the powers and responsibilities of a mayor, as well as the means of becoming mayor.

The French form of the word is maire. In Germany and the Low Countries the chief town magistrate is called "burgomaster" (G. Bürgermeister, Du. burgemeester; French-speaking parts of Belgium use bourgmestre), in Italy sindaco, in Bohemia starosta and in Spain alcalde, a term derived from a Moorish post.

In the United States, mayors are usually elected by the citizens of a locality for a fixed term. They generally share power with a local legislative body, such as a city council. Mayors may also function as the head of the city council, sometimes elected as mayor by the council rather the citizens, while day-to-day operations of the city are delegated to a professional city manager. In Salt Lake County in the U.S. state of Utah there is a county mayor. Additionally, the chief executives of all counties in Tennessee and Hawaii are referred to as "mayors". However, these persons are elected, not appointed, to that office.

In Canada mayors are usually elected at large by the citizens of a municipality for a fixed term. In most provinces, the Mayor operates under a weak-mayor system in which the Mayor sits as a member of the municipal council. In such systems, the Mayor has one vote, in common with all other members of Council and no executive powers. In rural municipalities, the head of Council may have the title reeve as opposed to mayor.

In several other countries, mayors are often appointed by some branch of the federal or regional government. In some cities, subdivisions such as arrondissements or boroughs may have their own mayors; this is the case, for example, with Paris and Mexico City.

In the United Kingdom, the office of Mayor has long been ceremonial. Directly-elected mayors with executive powers were introduced in some areas from 2000. In London, the ceremonial Lord Mayor of London, representing the City of London, should be distinguished from the elected Mayor of London who is responsible for the whole of Greater London. Thirty cities in the United Kingdom have Lord Mayors (or Lord Provosts in Scotland).

In Finland, there are no mayors, although plans have been floated to institute the office in Tampere. The highest executive official is not democratically elected, but appointed to a public office by the city council, and is called simply kaupunginjohtaja "city manager" or kunnanjohtaja "municipal manager", depending on whether the municipality feels like calling itself a city. The term pormestari "mayor", from Swedish borgmästare "master of city" confusingly refers to the highest official in the registry office, not the city manager. In addition, pormestari is also a title, which may be given for distinguished service in the post of the city manager. The city manager of Helsinki is called ylipormestari "Chief Mayor" for historical reasons.


In spite of its etymology, "mayor" was not a Roman office. It came into use in the large entourages that followed the barbarian leaders who succeeded to the power of the Emperor of the West. The male officer who governed a king or duke's peripatetic household was the major domus, the "major domo". In the households of the Merovingian Frankish kings, the major domus, or praefectus palatii ("prefect of the palace"), gained such power that, in the person of Pippin of Herstal, he ended by evicting his master. He was the "mayor of the palace".

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