'The Royal We' is the use of 'we' to refer only to the user. I had thought until I looked it up that 'Royal We' referred to the use of 'we' with the inference (whether obvious or subtle) that the person talking doesn't consider themselves to be included in 'we'.

Is such usage of 'we' recognised in any phrase analogous to 'The Royal We'?


Yes, there is a we that is only used for another person (or people). It is sometimes called the "patronizing we" (example), the "all-inclusive we" (example), or the "nurse's we" (example). One paper says the following:

Moreover, the patronizing we or all-inclusive we can be used in addressing instead of you. A doctor may use this to give hope to patients or to indicate that he is part of the situation.
Making health communication accessible: A rhetorical analysis of radio health talk (see page 61)

The corresponding definition in the OED is:

Used confidentially or humorously to mean the person or persons addressed, with whose interests the speaker thus identifies himself or herself (esp. by a doctor in friendly or cheering address to a patient); also used mockingly or reproachfully by a parent, intimate friend, etc.

Paywalled link to OED

For example, in this Monty Python sketch:

Doctor: Morning, Mr Henson ... How are we today?

The earliest citation in the OED for this sense is 1702, so it is not as old as the "Royal we" which dates back to Old English. Just for completeness' sake, the 1702 quote is this one:

Well, old Acquaintance, we are going to be Married then?
False Friend

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  • I'm not the asker, but I really wonder whether this form of address has a name, or if not, what it could be called. – Law29 Jan 1 '18 at 22:46
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    @Law29 It does! It's called the "patronizing we". I have edited my answer to include this. – Laurel Jan 1 '18 at 22:53
  • @Laurel You may well be right, but it seems a trifle unfair on doctors. It is one thing to use it in a sarcastic way e.g. teacher to pupil "Oh we are being a clever boy this morning aren't we". But a doctor uses it in quite a different way, as you suggest, to give support to the patient. – WS2 Jan 20 '19 at 21:34

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