Phd is an abbreviation of Doctor of Philosophy, but unlike MSc (Master of Science), MBA (Master of Business Administration) , BA (Bachelor of Arts), BSc (Bachelor of Science) and others the order of the letters is reversed.

  • D.Phil. DPhil. are also used. Not as broadly as PhD, though.
    – user140086
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 18:06
  • Why is this getting downvoted? Can someone provide OP with some helpful feedback to improve their question?
    – Marsh
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 18:10
  • 2
    @MartinCarney Why? Because driveby downvoting, that's why. A plague on this site.
    – deadrat
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 18:13
  • 2
    @deadrat Well then, I'll driveby upvote it.
    – Marsh
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


Ph.D. is an abbreviation of the Latin, not the English.

Wikipedia says:

A Doctor of Philosophy degree (often abbreviated Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil) or a Doctorate of Philosophy, from the Latin Doctor Philosophiae...

Latin does not have a set word order in cases like this, so Philosophiae Doctor is perfectly legitimate as well, and that's what the abbreviation is based on.

  • Even though Latin 'does not have a set word order', some orderings are much more preferred than others. In this instance, it is 'noun modifier' or doctor philosiphiae, so now we'd like to find out why the particular order of ph. d. came about rather than d. ph. (as in DPhil)
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 18:50
  • I'll hazard a guess - and it is a guess - that anybody who was anybody was a doctor, and the important thing was the field: was the person a philosophiae doctor (PhD), a medicinae doctor (MD), a legum doctor (LLD)?
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 18:59
  • 6
    Doctor is Latin for 'teacher'. A doctoral degree means the recipient is certified as being knowledgeable enough in the subject to teach it at a college level. The degree system comes from European universities (mostly originating in the 12th century in cathedral chapters at Paris, Oxford, Bologna, and other centers). All instruction was in Latin; all writing was in Latin; all discussion was in Latin. Latin was not a native language for anyone at the time. You can make up your own story about why one order got preferred for the abbreviation; it's got as much chance of being correct as any. Commented Oct 5, 2015 at 19:12
  • Note that PhD and DPhil are different degrees in some countries, with the latter usually being higher than a PhD. Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 16:32

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