Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I don't think the right in the "The Right Honourable" means "correct", because I can't see how that makes sense in context. I considered right as a British slang intensifier that means "really", but that didn't make much sense either, because as far as I know "The Right Honourable" is a formal title that slang of lower register wouldn't be found in. So my question is: What does right add to the meaning of "honourable" here? Is there any particular reason it's there?

share|improve this question
    
For practical purposes members of the Cabinet are styled 'Right Honourable' as opposed to Members of Parliament who are titled 'Honourable.' (There is much debate about both but no query relating to the 'Right'!) –  user7503 Apr 17 '11 at 6:39
3  
In the House of Commons, Right Honourable = member of the Privy Council - that includes at least all current cabinet ministers, but also some others. Once in the PC you almost always stay in for life, so it also includes ex-ministers, for example. –  Ganesh Sittampalam Apr 17 '11 at 13:34

3 Answers 3

up vote 21 down vote accepted

You're right in that you wouldn't find slang in official titles. However, according to Wiktionary, that definition is not slang, but is instead an archaic definition:

(archaic, sometimes used in titles) To a great extent or degree.
Members of the Queen's Privy Council are styled The Right Honourable for life.

In other words, it's a synonym for very. Those who are Right Honourable are honourable to a great degree, more than just The Honourable, but not quite so much as The Most Honourable.

share|improve this answer
3  
This is an example of the fact that some of the words and phrases that we may assume to have wholly-invented "slang meanings", have actually had their "slang meanings" borrowed from older and/or regional English usage. Which leads to a nice dilemma for dictionary writers: how to write about the modern usage? –  Robin Green Apr 17 '11 at 8:50

I always assumed it meant 'right' as in straight, unbiased, truthful, etc. That is, not an helper adjective describing the adjective 'honourable' but as its own adjective.

share|improve this answer

Right Reverend is a similar title, applied formally to Anglican bishops where ordinary priests are styled Reverend (but not to archbishops, who are styled Most Reverend). The Orthodox churches use this wording too, so it's not purely British.

share|improve this answer

protected by RegDwigнt Jul 3 '12 at 19:07

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.