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?

  • 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
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    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. – GS - Apologise to Monica Apr 17 '11 at 13:34

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.

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    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
  • Indeed, consider... "This is a right mess...." Also in place of "well".... as in "we was well knackered" also being expressed as "we was right knackered". – mckenzm Jul 9 '15 at 10:35

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.

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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.

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