Manifestos is derived from the Italian word manifesto, itself derived from the Latin manifestum, meaning clear or conspicuous. Its first recorded use in English is from 1620, in Nathaniel Bent's translation of Paolo Sarpi's History of the council of Trent: "To this citation he made answer by a Manifesto" (p 102). Similarly, "They were so farre surprized with his Manifesto, that they would never suffer it to be published"
A manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions, often political in nature. Manifestos relating to religious belief are generally referred to as creeds. Manifestos may also be life stance-related.
In some parliamentary democracies, political parties prepare electoral manifestos which set out both their strategic direction and outlines of prospective legislation should they win sufficient support in an election to serve in government. Legislative proposals which are featured in the manifesto of a party which has won an election are often regarded as having superior legitimacy to other measures which a governing party may introduce for consideration by the legislature.
An alternative term, used especially in North America, is party platform.