Definition of honorific in US English:



  • 1(of an office or position) given as a mark of respect, but having few or no duties.

    ‘an honorific award for military valor’
    • ‘Rather, it indicated their willingness to accept yet another honorific chairmanship from parishioners that required little active engagement from them.’
    • ‘The president will determine whether the individual is to continue in the endowed or honorific position and will notify the individual of the decision.’
    • ‘Thus, in the case of an honorific status, no powers are associated with it, according to him.’
    • ‘Many Mexican officers held honorific commissions but knew little about military matters.’
    • ‘The Constitution vests the supreme command in the President but this, as the Constitution makes clear, is an honorific office.’
    1. 1.1 Denoting a form of address showing high status, politeness, or respect.
      ‘an honorific title for addressing women’
      • ‘Those with titles of nobility, honorific titles, academic titles, and other professional titles prefer to be addressed by those titles, but like people to avoid calling too much attention to a person's position.’
      • ‘He was a member of nearly 30 medical societies and was awarded the honorific title ‘Tan Sri’ by the King of Malaysia.’
      • ‘He had his position and he thought it gave him power, when really it is a purely honorific title.’
      • ‘When the The New York Times decides to use honorific titles on second reference, it does so to establish consistency of usage and a level of diction that suggests formality and seriousness of purpose.’
      • ‘Twinam begins and concludes her book with the story of a Medellín merchant Gabriel Muñoz who initiated a law suit because a royal official did not address him by the honorific title Don.’
      • ‘In 1827 he was given the resurrected dignity of lord high admiral, intended as an honorific title, but his clumsy attempts to make its nominal authority effective led to his resignation after only fifteen months.’
      • ‘He now occupies the lofty position of Editor Emeritus at the Irish Times, an honorific title given to him for loyal, distinguished service, dedication beyond the call, etc.’
      • ‘His son, Kim Jong Il, fought off a number of contenders before being announced as successor, and has earned himself the honorific title of ‘Dear Leader’.’
      • ‘He and his wife were then given honorific titles.’
      • ‘On arrival at the home of the bereaved, the orator representing the visitors stands outside the hut, addresses the dead person with an honorific string of titles, and then speaks to everyone present.’
      • ‘Common Samoan is the Samoan language of commerce and normal village interactions, while Respect Samoan includes honorific terms used for others of equal or greater rank.’
      • ‘They refused to use honorific titles and deferential forms of address such as your excellency, my lord, because they were not literally true.’
      • ‘‘Buddha’ is a not a personal name but an honorific title which means ‘awakened one’.’
      • ‘But, again, honorific titles such as ‘research professor’ or simply ‘professor’ are both sought and given.’
      • ‘Once they have completed the pilgrimage, pilgrims are given the honorific title ‘Hajji’ (pilgrim).’


  • A title or word implying or expressing high status, politeness, or respect.

    ‘he will be able to put the honorific after his name: licenciado, “college graduate.”’
    • ‘‘Well, Magdalena,’ he said, not bothering with honorifics, ‘You of all people should know better than to lie.’’
    • ‘For no especially good reason, I tend to jump right in with the first name if the person is actually in my field, but use an honorific for someone in another discipline.’
    • ‘Addressing opponents with an honorific needlessly elevates them, so stick to first names.’
    • ‘‘Welcome aboard the Oberon, Captain,’ Reagan said, addressing Lawrence by the honorific he deserved as commanding officer of a ship.’
    • ‘But when you log on to book tickets for our National Theatre they do better than that; they give you no less than forty appellations, titles, ranks or honorifics to choose from.’
    • ‘The ‘little’ was the traditional honorific indicating that the kid was a prodigy.’
    • ‘To compound the confusion, before about 1100 the title ‘Sanctus’ or ‘Sanctissimus’ was an honorific that might be applied to any pope or indeed to any holy person.’
    • ‘A doctor who stands around and lets a patient die over money does not deserve the honorific.’
    • ‘A Japanese man was so enraged by an acquaintance's failure to address him with an honorific that he stabbed him to death with an umbrella, police said yesterday.’
    • ‘When Japanese people say that someone else speaks ‘beautiful Japanese’, they very often mean that the other person has an excellent command of the use of honorifics, which is one of the major features of Japanese.’
    • ‘On the flip side, though, it's a nearly infallible sign of personality problems when a PhD insists on the honorific ‘Dr.’’
    • ‘He decided to avoid the use of a name or honorific, and just try a question.’
    • ‘Japanese honorifics probably won't be used much when discussing particle physics or nanotechnology.’
    • ‘Finally, I have to regret the use of first names and nicknames for women, while men are given surnames, honorifics and initials.’
    • ‘Nahuatl once had an extensive system of honorifics, which affected not only the choice of pronouns, but also the forms of verbs, nouns, and pronouns.’
    • ‘At least he hadn't corrected my use of the masculine honorific.’
    • ‘Although a mother, grandmother and widow, Rizza gets angry when addressed as ‘Ibu’, the standard Indonesian honorific for women of her status.’
    • ‘His use of ‘Mister’ in front of first names was a kind of honorific: people deserved more respect than simple blurting out their name.’
    title, denomination, label
    View synonyms


Mid 17th century: from Latin honorificus, from honor ‘honor’.