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The Burgomaster's Family, possibly painted by Gerard Donck c. 1640

Burgomaster (alternatively spelled burgomeister, literally master of the town, borough or master of the fortress) is the English form of various terms in or derived from Germanic languages for the chief magistrate or chairman of the executive council, usually of a sub-national level of administration such as a city or a similar entity. In some cases, Burgomaster was the title of the head of state and head of government of a sovereign (or partially or de facto sovereign) city-state, sometimes combined with other titles (as in Hamburg's First Mayor and President of the Senate). Contemporary titles are commonly translated into English as mayor.

Municipal government

Arnold von Brauweiler, a German burgomaster, known in German as Bürgermeister
  • Bürgermeister (literally: 'master of the citizens'), in German: in Germany, Austria, and formerly in Switzerland. In Switzerland, the title was abolished mid-19th century; various current titles for roughly equivalent offices include Gemeindepräsident, Stadtpräsident, Gemeindeamtmann, and Stadtamtmann.
    • Oberbürgermeister ('Supreme Burgomaster') is the most common version for a mayor in a big city in Germany (it is not in use in Austria). The Ober- (lit. upper) prefix is used in many ranking systems for the next level up including military designations. The mayors of cities, which simultaneously comprise one of Germany's 112 urban districts usually bear this title. Urban districts are comparable to independent cities in the English-speaking world. However, also the mayors of some cities, which do not comprise an urban district, but often used to comprise one until the territorial reforms in the 1970s, bear the title Oberbürgermeister.
  • Borgmester (Danish)
  • Borgarstjóri (Faroese)
  • Borgermester (Norwegian (Bokmål))
  • Burgomaestre (Spanish)
  • Purkmistr (Czech)
  • Burgumaisu (Basque)
  • Borgomastro or Sindaco-Borgomastro (Italian): in few communes of Lombardy
  • Burgemeester in Dutch: Belgium a party-political post, though formally nominated by the regional government and answerable to it, the federal state and even the province. Mayor and president of the municipal council. In the Netherlands nominated by the municipal council but appointed by the crown. In theory above the parties, in practice a high profile party-political post.
  • Bourgmestre (French) in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Bürgermeister (Estonian)
  • Burmistras (Lithuanian), derived from German.
  • Buergermeeschter (Luxembourgish)
  • Polgármester (Hungarian), derived from German.
  • Burmistrz (Polish), a mayoral title, derived from German. The German form Oberbürgermeister ('Supreme Burgomaster') is often translated as Nadburmistrz. The German-derived terminology reflects the involvement of German settlers in the early history of many Polish towns.
  • Borgmästare, kommunalborgmästare (Swedish); the title is not used in Sweden in present times, the closest equivalent being kommunalråd (often translated to English as Municipal commissioner) or borgarråd (only in Stockholm City).
  • Boargemaster (West Frisian)
  • Pormestari (Finnish)

City state government

  • In history (sometimes until the beginning of the 19th century) in many free imperial cities (such as Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck etc.) the function of burgomaster was usually held simultaneously by three persons, serving as an executive college. One of the three being burgomaster in chief for a year (called in some cases in German: präsidierender Bürgermeister; in presiding burgomaster), the second being the prior burgomaster in chief, the third being the upcoming one. Präsidierender Bürgermeister is now an obsolete formulation sometimes found in historic texts.
  • In an important city, especially in a city state (Stadtstaat), where one of the Bürgermeister has a rank equivalent to that of a minister-president (governor), there can be several posts called Bürgermeister in the city's executive college, justifying the use of a compound title for the actual highest magistrate (also rendered as lord mayor), such as:
    • Regierender Bürgermeister (literally 'governing burgomaster', commonly translated as governing mayor) in West Berlin and reunited Berlin,[1] while in Berlin the term Bürgermeister without attribute – English Mayor – refers to his deputies,[2] and while the heads of the 12 boroughs of Berlin are called Bezirksbürgermeister, English borough mayor.[3]
    • Erster Bürgermeister (literally First Burgomaster) in Hamburg
    • Bürgermeister und Präsident des Senats ('Burgomaster and President of the Senate') in Bremen

Compound title at supra-municipal level

  • Amtsbürgermeister (German; roughly translated: 'District Burgomaster') can be used for the chief magistrate of a Swiss constitutive canton, as in Aargau 1815–1831 (next styled Landamman)


  1. "Curriculum Vitae Klaus Wowereit". Land Berlin, Der Regierende Bürgermeister, Senatskanzlei. Retrieved 7 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. cf. Article 56 sec. 2 of the "Constitution of the State of Berlin (part 4)". Land Berlin, Der Regierende Bürgermeister, Senatskanzlei. Retrieved 7 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. cf. Article 74 sec. 2 of the "Constitution of the State of Berlin (part 6)". Land Berlin, Der Regierende Bürgermeister, Senatskanzlei. Retrieved 7 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

bg:Кмет cs:Purkmistr da:Borgmester de:Bürgermeister el:Δήμαρχος eo:Urbestro fy:Boargemaster id:Walikota it:Sindaco he:ראש עירייה la:Magister civium superior lb:Buergermeeschter lt:Burmistras hu:Polgármester nl:Burgemeester ja:首長 no:Borgermester nn:Ordførar pl:Burmistrz pt:Prefeito ru:Обербургомистр sk:Starosta sl:Župan sv:Borgmästare zh:市长