Honorifics and Titles

We may not know what we are using but in everyday English, we use many words that help us be more polite. In this article, we will take a look at these titles.

What Are Honorifics and Titles in English?

What Are Honorifics and Titles?

When speaking with someone in a formal or respectful manner, honorifics are used as conversational terms to indicate courtesy towards individuals who are older or hold a higher social status. Honorifics, also known as referent honorifics, are typically used in formal settings or when showing respect to someone in a professional or social context.

Honorific Words

Compared to other languages, English does not have a lot of honorific words. The following is a list of common honorifics in English:

  • Mr.: this honorific title is used before the names of men.

Mr. Jones is a toy maker.

When I met Mr. Fischer he was trying to fix his car.

  • Mrs.: is a title of respect for a married or widowed woman.

Mrs. Baker is a wonderful lawyer.

Mrs. Bails was a nice woman but she was killed mysteriously.

  • Ms.: is used when you are not sure of a woman's marital status.

Ms. Anderson seemed eager to cook dinner.

When Ms. Allen started the show we were all behind the scene.

  • Miss: is used to indicate respect for a female child and an unmarried woman.

Miss Barnes used to be my teacher.

Miss Alison is Barney's granddaughter.

  • Sir: is used on its own or before a name to refer to a man.

'Mr.' as an honorific title

Excuse me Sir!

I hated Sir Nape.

Tip!

When we use these honorific titles we have to keep in mind that their first letters are always capitalized.

Dr. Regina told us to stay in hospital for two more hours.

Undoubtedly, General Parker was a brave man.

Sometimes we use some words alone in a sentence to refer to someone in a respectful way. Remember, the initial letter of an honorific title has to be capitalized.

They had an interview with the President.

Call the Captain. I am sure he will figure it out.

Tip

Usually, when we are really close to people who are older than us, we can use honorific titles followed by their first name, but when they are not, to be even more polite, we use their last name after honorific titles.

Professor Ross is my brother.

Dr. Green is an old man now.

Titles of Affection

When addressing pets, friends, or people younger than us, we may use titles that convey a sense of friendliness or affection. These titles can vary depending on the context and relationship between the speaker and the person or animal being addressed, for example:

  • Honey (child, romantic partner, or younger person),
  • Dear, Sweetie, Love, Darling, Babe or Baby (romantic partner),
  • Pal (father or grandfather calls male child),
  • Buddy or Bud (between friends).

Honey give me the keys, please!

Sweetie hurry up; you're gonna be late for school.

Honorific Phrases

There are some phrases that are used as honorific titles for people of a higher social status. For example:

  • Your Honor (refers to a judge)
  • Your Highness or Your Majesty (refers to a king, queen, prince, etc.)

Will that be all, Your Highness?

Here is the evidence, Your Honor.

Royal Titles

Royal titles such as King, Queen, Prince, Duke, etc. are used as honorific titles and can appear on their own or followed by a name. For example:

Prince Charming wanted to steal Fiona's heart.

Surely the King knows best.

Punctuation

In American English, a period is placed after all abbreviated titles (e.g., 'Dr.' or 'Mrs.'). In British English, however, when the abbreviated form of a title ends with the same letter as the full term (eg., Doctor and Dr), there is no need for a period. Pay attention to the examples:

American English: Mr. and Mrs. Donalds went home.

British English: Mr and Mrs Donalds went home.

In British English, a period is only used when the shortened title does not end with the last letter of the full form. (e.g., when 'Professor' changes into 'Prof.').

American English: Dr. Edwards wrote a letter to Prof. Jacobs.

British English: Dr Edwards wrote a letter to Prof. Jacobs.

Review

Honorific titles are used to refer to people but in a respectful way. When using honorific titles make sure that they are capitalized at the beginning. Sometimes they are used alone and sometimes they are followed by a name.

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