This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages) This article includes a list of general references, but it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (December 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message) The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United Kingdom and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this article, discuss the issue on the talk page, or create a new article, as appropriate. (May 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this template message) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

A sinecure (/ˈsɪnɪkjʊər/ or /ˈsnɪkjʊər/; from the Latin sine, 'without', and cura, 'care') is an office, carrying a salary or otherwise generating income, that requires or involves little or no responsibility, labour, or active service. The term originated in the medieval church, where it signified a post without any responsibility for the "cure [care] of souls", the regular liturgical and pastoral functions of a cleric, but came to be applied to any post, secular or ecclesiastical, that involved little or no actual work. Sinecures have historically provided a potent tool for governments or monarchs to distribute patronage, while recipients are able to store up titles and easy salaries.

A sinecure can also be given to an individual whose primary job is in another office, but requires a sinecure title to perform that job. For example, the Government House Leader in Canada is often given a sinecure ministry position so that they may become a member of the Cabinet. Similar examples are the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the British cabinet. The minister without portfolio is a frequent example of this sinecure, often employed to give cabinet-level positions to enough members of all partners in a coalition government. Other sinecures operate as legal fictions, such as the British office of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds, used as a legal excuse for resigning from Parliament.


Girolamo and cardinal Marco Cornaro investing Marco, abbot of Carrara, with his benefice. Titian, c. 1520

Sinecure, properly a term of ecclesiastical law for a benefice without the cure of souls, arose in the English Church when the rector had no cure of souls nor resided in the parish, the work of the incumbent being performed by a vicar.[citation needed][1] Such sinecure rectories were expressly granted by the patron. They were abolished by Parliament under the Ecclesiastical Commissioners Act of 1840.[2][3]

Other ecclesiastical sinecures were certain cathedral dignities to which no spiritual functions attached or incumbencies where by reason of depopulation and the like, the parishioners disappeared or the parish church was allowed to decay. Such cases eventually ceased to exist.[4]

The term is also used of any office or place to which salary, emoluments, or dignity, but no duties, are attached. The British civil service and the royal household, for example, were loaded with innumerable offices which, by lapse of time, had become sinecures and were only kept as the reward of political services or to secure voting power in parliament. They were prevalent in the 18th century, but were gradually abolished by statutes during that and the following centuries.[5]

Current usage

Below is a list of extant sinecures by country.[6]

United Kingdom

Positions associated with membership of the Cabinet

Positions used to effect resignation from the House of Commons

Positions associated with the Whips' Office

Ceremonial and honorary positions



See also

Christian churches:


  1. ^ "sinecure — definition, examples, related words and more at Wordnik". Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  2. ^ "Ecclesiastical Commissioners Act 1840". Section No. XLVIII of 11 August 1840. Parliament of the United Kingdom.
  3. ^ Service, United States Foreign (1936). American Foreign Service. U.S. Government Printing Office.
  4. ^ Cf. M. Guasco, Storia del clero, Laterza (1997), p.20
  5. ^  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sinecure". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 147; see last three sentences. The British civil service and royal household were loaded.....
  6. ^ As extracted from Lord Mackay of Clashfern (ed.) (2002) Halsbury's Laws of England, 4th ed. Vol.14.