Merriam-Webster obviously says that the word is an abbreviation for doctor, and I also acknowledge the fact that it's less formal than doctor. My question is: when talking to your doctor, would it be considered rude to call him or her a doc?

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    I can safely say I've never heard a doctor say "There's no need to stand on ceremony - just call me 'Doc'". So I wouldn't do it. Why would you want to? It's probably a step up from "Bones" though, and Captain Kirk always seemed to be on good terms with Doctor McCoy despite the flippant address. Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 13:40
  • The question came to my mind randomly :)
    – user132181
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 13:55
  • ...and "Bones" is probably short for the other questionable nickname for doctors, "sawbones". Ouch! Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 16:12
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    I've noticed that in American war films and television series, military personnel refer to medics that are with them, as “doc”. That's despite the fact that they are not doctors, but enlisted medical personnel.
    – Tristan r
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 17:24
  • They hope. No, they're calling them "doc" because that's the way tough US soldiers talk in movies, to show they're tough US soldiers instead of scared farmboys. Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 14:58

3 Answers 3


I'm examining and touching on your private parts and information, I'm ok with you calling me "Doc". I'm a retired military physician (MD). Concerning military medics (enlisteds) in the field, they are pretty well trained, because they want to be and they have to be. We work hard to give them all the medical training possible. If you get hit or sick out there, the guy treating you is doctoring you. He IS your doctor. England, Australia, Japan, etc, have 6 year medical schools to which high school graduates matriculate without doing a 4 year undergrad program . Also their degrees are bachelor degrees, not "doctors of medicine', but still they are just as good at doctoring as we are over here. "Doc" is neutral, and actually I prefer "Doc" , both in the office and out. No need to call me "Doctor of Medicine" or even "Doctor" . "Doc" differentiates me from others in the room, and refers to what I am here for. To me, the rest of the word or title is superfluous in conversation.

  • It's funny how the first sentence in your answer answers my question better than the whole two previous answers put together :-)
    – user132181
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 11:42

It depends on the relationship. You could call a president "Prez", or a professor "Prof" – either of those would be acceptable English, but whether or not you'd be violating social etiquette is another matter. Some people in authority have no problem with a more informal title, while others might be uncomfortable with it.

Calling your health care provider Doc is like taking a new medication or starting a new exercise regimen: you should consult your doctor first.

  • Wish I could upvote because of that last sentence :)
    – user132181
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 14:33
  • As a doc myself, I'm with David. No one need consult me before calling me doc. It's usually an attempt to level the playing field somewhat, and I've no objection to that. I always refer to patients by their titles + surname, even little kids (which usually makes them laugh and puts them at ease, gives them a sense of power, all of which makes my job easier in the ER, where they're frightened). Amen to that! I continue to use their respectful title, and am not offended when they do not totally reciprocate. I do not, however, let them call me by my given name without permission. Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 22:12
  • @Susan - that's helpful feedback, although I will say that my last line was meant to be about 60% humorous and 40% serious. It never hurts to say something along the lines of, "Do you mind if I call you ____?" (If the person doesn't mind, they can always say, "No, I don't mind at all.")
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 0:25

As a physician myself, I can say I don't find it particularly offensive.

Plenty of patients refer to me as Doc.

That said, it smacks of country bumpkin. My impression of people who use the term is that they are less sophisticated.

There is also a recent phenomenon of patients calling me by my first name despite never having met before. This, I find a bit disrespectful. I introduce myself as Doctor M., and if a patient asks if they may call me by first name, I have never once said no. But, I rather dislike when people do so without asking. I'd much rather they called me Doc.

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    I also think that calling a person you've recently met by his or her first name is quite rude. Also, I think that an insight from a person who is a doctor is the best insight :) I don't think there are a lot of doctors on this site, so I'm going to accept this answer :)
    – user132181
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 14:37

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