A word, title, or grammatical form that signals respect or social deference.
Examples and Observations:
- "The most basic and widespread forms of honorifics occur in salutations. In
English they include Mr., Mrs., Ms., Doctor, Your Eminence (to cardinals), Reverend Father, (to priests), Your Honor (to judges), Madame Ambassador (to foreign woman ambassadors), and many others."
(Zdeněk Salzmann, Language, Culture, and Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology, 4th ed. Westview, 2007)
- "The New York Times waited until 1986 to announce that it would embrace the use of Ms. as an honorific alongside Miss and Mrs."
(Ben Zimmer, "Ms." The New York Times, Oct. 23, 2009)
- "John Bercow, Speaker, Britain's First Commoner (that's an honorific for the class conscious of you out there), was greeting and welcoming his new intake in Portcullis House. He is master of this domain."
(Simon Carr, "My Ill-Tempered Encounter With the Speaker." The Independent, May 12, 2010)
- H.L. Mencken on Honorifics
"Among the honorifics in everyday use in England and the United States one finds many notable divergences between the two languages. On the one hand the English are almost as diligent as the Germans in bestowing titles of honor upon their men of mark, and on the other hand they are very careful to withhold such titles from men who do not legally bear them. In America every practitioner of any branch of the healing art, even a chiropodist or an osteopath, is a doctor ipso facto, but in England a good many surgeons lack the title and it is not common in the lesser ranks. . . .
"In all save a few large cities of America every male pedagogue is a professor, and so is every band leader, dancing master and medical consultant. But in England the title is very rigidly restricted to men who hold chairs in the universities, a necessarily small body."
(H.L. Mencken, The American Language, 1921)
- T.V Systems
"In many languages . . . the second person plural pronoun of address doubles as an honorific form to singular respected or distant alters. Such usages are called T/V systems, after the French tu and vous (see Brown and Gilman 1960). In such languages, the use of a T (singular non-honorific pronoun) to a non-familiar alter can claim solidarity.
"Other address forms used to convey such in-group membership include generic names and terms of address like Mac, mate, buddy, pal, honey, dear, duckie, luv, babe, Mom, blondie, brother, sister, cutie, sweetheart, guys, fellas."
(Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson, Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1987)