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What is this type of word called: Mr., Ms., Dr.? In the document I am using, it is referred to as the "prefix", but I don't think that is correct.

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Prefix is not incorrect per se, but it is not as precise a term. –  Daniel Sep 20 '11 at 19:12
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Wikipedia on Mr: Mister, usually written in its abbreviated form Mr (Commonwealth English) or Mr. (American English), is a commonly used English honorific... –  Daniel Sep 20 '11 at 19:46

5 Answers 5

up vote 20 down vote accepted

"Title" and "honorific" both describe that type of word.

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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honorific –  Spare Oom Sep 20 '11 at 17:00
    
Yes, title is what we say in America. But someone from Britain will pipe up and remark that a title is something like "Duke" or "Lord". –  GEdgar Nov 22 '11 at 16:43

I prefer to call those 'appellations.' To me, 'honorific' connotes that it's associated with a position. 'Title' seems neutral enough but it also seems like it's more superfluous, not integral to the naming of something.

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Title or in some cases courtesy title.

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AP Stylebook calls it a courtesy title.

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A courtesy title is a title used as a courtesy, although one is not entitled to it. An example would be that the (as yet) untitled offspring of a noble may use one of their parent's titles. By contrast, a Doctor has earned their title, and likewise Mister is used as of right by anyone. –  Marcin Sep 20 '11 at 18:37

That would be called a "style."

Edit: It can also be a mode of address, if used in that way.

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Style is perfectly valid in British English. 9. chiefly (Brit) the distinguishing title or form of address of a person or firm –  Wudang Sep 20 '11 at 17:40
    
It was my understanding that a style is generally associated with a title of nobility, e.g. bearing the title of "Princess" allows you to use the style "Her Royal Highness Princess [somebody] of [land(s) associated with title of nobility" –  Dereleased Sep 20 '11 at 17:56
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@Dereleased: Then your understanding is wrong. "Mister" is a style just as much as "Princess" is. –  Marcin Sep 20 '11 at 18:35
    
@Marcin: Perhaps I am. I know that there are times when "Mister" is either a portion of a style or a complete style, but in that case it is associated with some position (e.g. certain clergy positions, or some official government positions in the United states such as "Mr. President", "Madam Speaker", etc), while the generic honorific we tend to say during conversation to anyone would not thus qualify, just as "Sir" is a style when addressing a knight but not when talking to your boss (who is not a knight). I will have to read more on the subject. –  Dereleased Sep 20 '11 at 19:08
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@Dereleased: I don't think we're using the same dictionary. Usually, (at least in BrEng) Mr is a style in 'Mr Smith', part of a style in "Mr Justice Smith" (because that's how you address an envelope), an honorific in "Mr President" (because that isn't) and a mode of address in "Listen, mister". Doctor is the same. –  TimLymington Dec 13 '11 at 12:46

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