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The Honourable (British English) or The Honorable (American English; see spelling differences) (abbreviation: Hon., Hon'ble, or variations) is an honorific style that is used as a prefix before the names or titles of certain people, usually with official governmental or diplomatic positions.
Use by governments
In international diplomatic relations, representatives of foreign states are often styled as The Honourable. Deputy chiefs of mission, chargés d'affaires, consuls-general and consuls are always given the style. All heads of consular posts, whether they are honorary or career postholders, are accorded the style according to the State Department of the United States. However, the style Excellency instead of The Honourable is used for ambassadors and high commissioners.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the prefix 'Honourable' or 'Hon.' is used for members of both chambers of the Parliament of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Informally, senators are sometimes given the higher style of 'Venerable'.
The style Honourable is used to address members of the Kenyan parliament. Traditionally, members of Parliament are not allowed to call each other by name in the chambers, but rather use the terms "Honourable colleague" or "Honorable Member for ...". The written form is Hon. [Last Name], [First Name] or Honourable [Last Name] or Honourable [Position] (e.g. Honourable Speaker).
Recipients of the rank of Grand Officer or above of the Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean and persons knighted by Queen Elizabeth II are automatically entitled to prefix The Hon, Hons or The Honourable to their name. Commanders and Officers may request permission from the President to use this prefix. Recipients of the order who are not Mauritian citizens may not use the prefix or post-nominals unless granted permission by the President.
A rough equivalent of the style Honourable would be Hochwohlgeboren 'high well-born', which was used until 1918 for all members of noble families not having any higher style. Its application to bourgeois dignitaries became common in the 19th century, though it has faded since and was always of doubtful correctness.
Ehrwürdig or Ehrwürden, the literal translation of 'honourable', is used for Catholic clergy and religious—with the exceptions of priests and abbesses, who are Hochwürden 'reverend'. A subdeacon is Wohlehrwürden 'very honourable'; a deacon is Hochehrwürden 'right honourable'.
In Ireland, all judges of the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are referred to as The Honourable Mr/Ms Justice.
In Italy, the style The Honourable (Italian: Onorevole) is customarily used to refer to a member of the Chamber of Deputies or Senate of the Republic. Former members of parliament can maintain the style.
All members of the unicameral Parliament of Malta are entitled to this prefix.
An extensive system of honorifics used to be in place in the Netherlands. In a more formal setting it still is. De weledele heer/vrouwe 'the honourable lord/lady' is used for the genteel bourgeoisie. The middle classes are instead addressed with De heer/mevrouw 'sir/madam', which is the equivalent of Mr/Ms in English.
Also typical is the use of De weledelgeboren heer/vrouwe 'the well-born lord/lady', for students at universities, traditionally children of the genteel bourgeoisie.
The system adds honorifics based on prestige for military officers based on rank, barristers, prosecutors, judges, members of parliament, government ministers, nobles, clergy, and for academic degrees of master's and above.
In the Dutch language, Mr is a formal and academic title, for both men and women, protected by Dutch law. It stands for Meester 'master', and is strictly reserved for holders of a master's degree in law (LL.M.) who are qualified to practice law. Holders are addressed as De weledelgestrenge heer/vrouwe Mr 'the honourable strict lord/lady master', followed by their name.
In the Spanish Autonomous Community of Catalonia the word Honorable (Catalan: Honorable) is used for current and former members of the cabinet (consellers) of the President of the Catalan Government (Generalitat de Catalunya). Former and current Heads of Government or President of the Generalitat are given the name of Molt Honorable ("Very Honorable"). This also applies to former and current heads of government of the Autonomous Communities of Valencia and Balearic Islands.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (March 2012)
In the United Kingdom, all sons and daughters of viscounts and barons (including the holders of life peerages) and the younger sons of earls are styled with this prefix (the daughters and younger sons of dukes and marquesses and the daughters of earls have the higher style of Lord or Lady before their first names, and the eldest sons of dukes, marquesses and earls are known by one of their father's or mother's subsidiary titles). The style is only a courtesy, however, and on legal documents they may be described as, for instance, John Smith, Esq., commonly called The Honourable John Smith. As the wives of sons of peers share the styles of their husbands, the wives of the sons of viscounts and barons and the younger sons of earls are styled, for example, The Hon. Mrs John Smith. Likewise, the married daughters of viscounts and barons, whose husbands hold no higher title or dignity, are styled, for example, The Hon. Mrs Smith.
The Honourable is also customarily used as a form of address for most foreign nobility that is not formally recognised by the sovereign (e.g. ambassadors) when in the UK.
Some people are entitled to the prefix by virtue of their offices. Rules exist that allow certain individuals to keep the prefix The Honourable even after retirement.
- Judges of the High Court and other superior courts in the Commonwealth (if the judge is a knight, the style Sir John Smith is used socially instead of The Honourable Mr Justice Smith); and
- Members of Commonwealth executive and legislative councils (or senates) where the legislature is bicameral.
Several corporate entities have been awarded the style by royal warrant, for example:
- The Honourable East India Company;
- The Honourable Artillery Company;
- The four Inns of Court (for example The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple)
- The Honourable Company of Master Mariners
- The Honourable Company of Air Pilots
The style The Honourable is usually used in addressing envelopes (where it is usually abbreviated to The Hon.) and formally elsewhere, in which case Mr or Esquire are omitted. In speech, however, The Honourable John Smith is usually referred to simply as Mr John Smith.
In the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, as in other traditionally lower houses of Parliament and other legislatures, members must as a minimum refer to each other as the honourable member or my honourable friend out of courtesy, but they are not entitled to the style in writing. Members who are 'senior' barristers may be called the honourable and learnèd member, serving or ex-serving members of the military the honourable and gallant member, and ordained clergy in the House the honourable and reverend member; a practice which the Modernisation Committee recommended abolished, but which use has continued. When anyone is entitled to be styled Right Honourable this is used instead of honourable.
- Members of the King's Privy Council for Canada (mostly members or former members of the federal Cabinet)
- Lieutenant governors
- Members of the Executive Council of Nova Scotia (since 2009)
- Members of the Executive Council of Alberta (since 2022)
- The speaker of the House of Commons of Canada
- Members of provincial and territorial executive councils (premiers, cabinet ministers and deputy premiers). Some executive councillors (see above) have the honorific for life.
- Speakers of provincial and territorial legislatures
- Government house leaders of provinces and territories
- Territorial commissioners
- Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada
- Justices of the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeals, Tax Court of Canada
- Justices of the Court Martial of Canada and Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada
- Justices of provincial superior courts (trial and appellate)
- Provincial inferior court judges
- The Honourable Mr/Madam Justice — justices of federal courts, provincial appellate and superior courts.
- The Honourable Judge — judges of provincial courts and formerly judges of district or county courts.
In all cases, the governor general of Canada may grant permission to retain the style after they cease to hold office. Persons eligible to retain the style include the speaker of the House of Commons (who may already be eligible as a privy councillor), territorial commissioners, and judges of certain courts (e.g., the Supreme Court of Canada). The most recent former justice granted such privileges was Frank Iacobucci.
It is usual for speakers of the House of Commons to be made privy councillors, in which case they keep the style for life. By custom, the leader of the Official Opposition is appointed to the Privy Council, granting them the style (being the only non-government MP accorded such privilege). In the past, certain provincial premiers (e.g., Peter Lougheed, Bill Davis, Joey Smallwood and Tommy Douglas) were elevated to the Privy Council and gained the style, but such practice is rare.
Members of the House of Commons of Canada and of provincial legislatures refer to each other during proceedings of the house with the courtesy style "honourable member" (or l'honorable député), but their name is not otherwise prefixed with the Honourable (unless they are privy councillors or executive councillors).
Current and former governors general, prime ministers, chief justices and certain other eminent persons use the style of Right Honourable for life (or le/la très honorable in French). This was originally subject to being summoned to the British Privy Council. Several early prime ministers were not summoned to the British Privy Council, and hence were styled The Honourable: Alexander Mackenzie, Sir John Abbott and Sir Mackenzie Bowell.
Members of the Executive Council of Quebec have not used the style The Honourable since 1968 but retain the ability to do so, and are often accorded the honorific in media and by the federal government.
In Barbados, members of the Parliament carry two main titles: members of the House of Assembly are styled The Honourable, while members of the Senate are styled "Senator". Companions of Honour of the former Order of Barbados from the pre-republic era of Barbados, as well Members of the current Order of the Republic, are accorded the style The Honourable.
Trinidad and Tobago
In Trinidad and Tobago The Prime Minister, government ministers, the leader of the opposition and ministers within government ministries (junior ministers) are styled as The Honourable, senators serving as ministers are styled as Senator The Honourable, ministers with doctorates are styled as The Honourable Dr. or Dr. the Honourable (rare).
In the United States, the prefix the Honorable has been used to formally address various officials at the federal and state levels, but it is most commonly used for the President-elect, governors, judges, and members of Congress when formally addressing them. The style may be conferred pursuant to federal government service, according to federal rules, or by state government service, where the rules may be different. Modifiers such as the Right Honorable or the Most Honorable are not used. The 't' in 'the' is not capitalized in the middle of a sentence.
Under the rules of etiquette, the President, Vice President, members of both houses of Congress, governors of states, members of state legislatures, and mayors are accorded the title. Persons appointed to office nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate are accorded the title; this rule includes members of the Cabinet and sub-Cabinet (such as deputies and undersecretaries), administrators, members, and commissioners of the various independent agencies, councils, commissions, and boards, federal judges, ambassadors of the United States, U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Marshals, the Architect of the Capitol, the Librarian of Congress and Public Printer of the United States, and presidentially appointed inspectors general.
High state officials other than governor, such as lieutenant governor and state attorneys general are also accorded the style Honorable. State court judges and justices of the peace, like federal judges, also are accorded the style Honorable. Practices vary on whether appointed state official, such as the heads of state cabinet-level departments are given the title. There is also no universal rule for whether county or city officials other than the mayor (such as city council, board of aldermen, board of selectmen, planning and zoning commission, and code enforcement board members, or city manager or police chief or fire chief) are given the title; as these may be different state by state.
Members of the White House staff at the rank of special assistant, deputy assistant, assistant to the president, and Counselor to the President are accorded the title. Officials nominated to high office but not yet confirmed (e.g., commissioner-designate) and interim or acting officials are generally not accorded the style Honorable, except for cabinet-level officials.
Opinions vary on whether the term the Honorable is accorded for life. According to the protocols of the U.S. Department of State, all persons who have been in a position that entitled them to The Honorable continue to retain that honorific style for life. However, the State Department is not an authority on state and local officials such as mayors, members of state legislatures, and high state officials. The prefix is not used for people who have died.
Some estimate that in the United States there are nearly 100,000 people who are accorded the "Honorable" title, many in the Washington, D.C. region. Civilian officials, including service secretaries (e.g., Secretary of the Army) of the Pentagon receive the title.
The style The Honorable is used on envelopes when referring to an individual in the third person. It is never properly used to refer to oneself.
A spouse of someone with the style of The Honorable receives no additional style.
- Governors-General and Governors
- Members of the Federal Executive Council
- Premiers and ministers in all states
- Presiding officers of federal and state parliaments (except ACT Legislative Assembly speakers)
- Members of all state legislative councils except in Victoria
- Chief ministers and ministers in the Northern Territory
- Leaders of the Opposition in Tasmania
- High Court Justices
- Federal Court Justices
- Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, Division 1 Justices
- Justices of the supreme court in states and territories.
The abbreviation in Australia is 'The Hon' (without a full stop).
In May 2013, the title was given approval by Queen Elizabeth II to be granted to past, present, and future Governors-General of Australia, to be used in the form His or Her Excellency the Honourable while holding office, and The Honourable in retirement.
By December 2014, the practice of appointing the vice-regal office holder, as well as former living, the style The Honourable for life had also been adopted for the state governors of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania (where it did not apply to past governors), as well as the Administrator of the Northern Territory.
In Australia, all ministers in Commonwealth and state governments and the government of the Northern Territory are entitled to be styled the Honourable. The Australian Capital Territory does not have an executive council and so its ministers are not entitled to the style. In Victoria, the style is granted for life, so it is customary for former ministers to retain the style after leaving office. With respect to New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania the King-in-Council may grant former ministers the style for life. The same principle applies in the Northern Territory via the chief minister, to the administrator, to the governor-general, then to the King. A minimum five years' service as a member of the executive council and/or as a presiding officer is a prerequisite. In Western Australia, conditional on royal assent, the style may become permanent after three years' service in the ministry. All such awards are published in the Commonwealth Government Gazette. The presiding officers of the parliaments of the Commonwealth, the states and the Northern Territory are also styled the Honourable, but normally only during their tenure of office. Special permission is sometimes given for a former presiding officer to retain the style after leaving office, as is the case in the Northern Territory.
Members of Parliament
The title Honourable is not acquired through membership of either the House of Representatives or the Senate (see Parliament of Australia). A member or senator may have the style if they have acquired it separately, e.g. by being a current or former minister. During proceedings within the chambers, forms such as "the honourable member for ...", "the honourable Leader of the Opposition", or "my honourable colleague" are used. This is a parliamentary courtesy and does not imply any right to the style.
Traditionally, members of the legislative councils of the states have been styled the Honourable for the duration of their terms. That practice is still followed in New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. In Victoria, the practice was abolished in 2003. In New South Wales, Greens NSW members of the Legislative Council, who are eligible for the Honourable style, have refrained from using it, deeming it to be "outdated" and a "colonial trapping".
Judges of all superior courts are also referred to formally by the style the Honourable, both during and after holding the office.
The style The Honourable was first granted in 1854 for use by members of the Executive Council, the Speaker of the Legislative Council, the Members of the Legislative Council, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
In addition to the standard Commonwealth usage, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was entitled to be referred to as The Honourable until 2010, when it was announced that sitting and future Governors-General, Prime Ministers, Chief Justices, and Speakers of the House of Representatives would be entitled to be referred to as The Right Honourable.
In July 2006 the Governor-General (and former living Governors-General) were granted the use of the title The Honourable until 2010 when the Governors-General was granted the title Right Honourable if they did not hold the style already or were a Privy Counsellor.
New Zealand office holders who are The Honourable ex-officio are usually granted the style for life by the Governor-General as a courtesy when they vacate the office; all honours and awards are published in The New Zealand Gazette.
In South Korea, the prefix The Honourable is used for the following people:
- Ministerial Members of Cabinet of Korea
- Leaders and Floor Leaders of Parties and Members of Shadow Cabinet.
- Governors and Ministerial members of Provinces
- Mayors of Metropolitan Cities
- Judges at Supreme Court of Korea and Chief Justices of Provincial Level Courts.
In Hong Kong, the prefix The Honourable is used for the following people:
- The Chief Executive of Hong Kong
- Members, including the President, of the Legislative Council
- Members of the Executive Council, including official members such as the Chief Secretary, the Financial Secretary, the Secretary for Justice, and other secretaries of bureaux
- Judges of the Court of Final Appeal
- Justices of Appeal of the Court of Appeal
- Judges of the Court of First Instance
- Individuals who have been awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal, the highest medal in Hong Kong's honours system.
- Deceased heroes (29 to date) who served in any of the disciplined services under the Security Bureau
In Macau, the prefix The Honourable is used occasionally for the following people:
- Chief Executive of Macau
- Members, including the President, of the Legislative Assembly of Macau
- Members of the Executive Council
- The Secretariat for Administration and Justice (Macau), the Secretariat for Economy and Finance (Macau), and other Principal officials
- Judges of the Court of Final Appeal
- Individuals who have been awarded the Grand Medal of Lotus Flower, the highest medal in Macau's honours system.
In People's Republic of Bangladesh, House Speaker, Ministers, Members of parliaments and Mayors are entitled to the style Honourable. On the other hand, the Prime Minister and the President are styled Honourable or Excellency.
In India, judges of the High Courts of India and Supreme Court of India are addressed as Honourable (Hon'ble); often stylized and abbreviated as "HMJ", i.e., Honourable Mr/Ms. Justice, followed by their name. The elected legislators and Heads of Government are also formally called Honourable followed by their name. The vice president is addressed as the hon'ble as well.
In Pakistan, the judicial officers are addressed as honourable while presiding over in the courts of law. It is a norm to address judges of superior judiciary as honourable judges. Diplomats are addressed as Your Excellency. The head of state and Prime Minister is addressed her/his excellency.
In Sri Lanka, the honorific The Honourable is used to refer to the President, Prime Minister, Ministers, and Members of Parliament. Attorney-General and Solicitor-General as well as Judges of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Courts.
In Malaysia, an elected Member of Parliament or State Legislative Assemblyman is entitled to be referred to as Yang Berhormat, which translates to 'the honourable'.
In the Philippines, the style is usually used to give distinction to any elected official (whether in office or retired) ranging from the smallest political unit, the barangay, to the Congress of the Philippines, which consists of the Senate and House of Representatives. Appointed officials such as members of the Cabinet (secretaries, acting secretaries, ad interim secretaries, undersecretaries, and assistant secretaries), the Solicitor General, and heads of government agencies at the national and local levels are also accorded this style. For example, a kagawad (barangay or village council member) named Juan de la Cruz will be referred to as The Honorable Juan de la Cruz. In written form, the style may be shortened to "Hon." (e.g. Hon. Juan de la Cruz).
The Vice-President, Chief Justice, Ombudsman, Justices of the Supreme Court, Sandiganbayan, and Court of Appeals, and Trial Court Judges are also addressed in this honorific style. Meanwhile, the President of the Philippines and Catholic Archbishops is always given the style His/Her Excellency.
The Chief Justice, Judges of Appeal, and Justices of the Supreme Court, and the Presiding Judge and District Judges of the State Courts are conventionally addressed in formal settings using the honorific The Honourable.
The use of the honorific The Honourable to refer to the Prime Minister, Ministers, and Members of Parliament is not required by the Standing Orders of Parliament, but during a 1988 parliamentary debate the Leader of the House, Wong Kan Seng, said it would be polite for MPs to refer to their colleagues using the terms "Mr.", "Honourable Mr." or "Honourable Minister" depending on their choice.
Private, non-profit, and non-governmental (NGO) organisations, and religious movements sometimes style a leader or founder as The Honourable, e.g. The Honourable Elijah Muhammad.
- Honour (style)
- Honorary degree (also uses the abbreviation "Hon" in front of that of the degree, e.g. Hon DLitt)
- The Most Honourable
- The Right Honourable
- The Much Honoured
- Worship (style)
- This is referenced in the Los Angeles Country Protocol Register: "Following the practice of the U.S. Department of State Office of Protocol, all heads of post are accorded the courtesy style of 'The Honorable' before their names." ceo.lacounty.gov Archived 16 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine Los Angeles has the highest density of consulates and consulates-general of any city in the world. Furthermore, for example, phoenix.gov Archived 22 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine or oakgov.com Archived 22 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine An authoritative source can be found at bmeia.gv.at Archived 16 February 2022 at the Wayback Machine where the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs lists all Honorary Consuls with the style of The Hon.
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(...) The Heralds' College officially reported on the petition on October 31, 1835, stating (...) that "the style of 'The Honourable' is given to the Judges and to the Barons of the Exchequer, with others; because, by the Decree of the tenth of King James the First, for settling the place and precedency of the Baronets, the Judges, and Barons of the Exchequer, were declared to have place and precedence before the younger sons of Viscounts and Barons."
(...) The analogy held only in so far as both styles were applicable to those who belonged to the less exalted ranks of the titled classes, for the title "honourable" was not definitely confined to certain classes until later.
The terms honorabilis and honorabilitas were in use in the Middle Ages as a form of politeness rather than as a specific title. More than two centuries later John Selden, in his Titles of Honor (1614), does not include "honourable" among the courtesy titles given to the children of peers.
The style was, in fact, used extremely loosely until well on into the 18th century.
(...) British baronets, for instance, claimed that they had been styled "the honourable" until the end of the 18th century, and in 1835 they petitioned for the style as a prefix to their names. The Heralds' College officially reported on the petition on October 31, 1835, stating that the presented evidence did not prove the right of baronets to the style and that its use "has been no more warranted by authority than when the same style has been applied to Field Officers in the Army and others.".
(...) It is not, indeed, until 1874 that there is any clear evidence of an authoritative limitation of the title. In this year the wives of Lords of Appeal were granted style and precedence as baronesses, but it was provided that their children were not "to assume or use the prefix of Honourable, or to be entitled to the style, rank or precedence of the children of a Baron." In 1898, however, this was revoked, and it was ordained "that such children shall have and enjoy on all occasions the style and title enjoyed by the children of hereditary Barons together with the rank and precedence." By these acts of the Crown, the prefix "honourable" would seem to have been restricted as a definite title of honour, yet in legal documents the sons of peers are still styled merely "esquire". This latter fact points to the time when the prefix "honourable" was a mark of deference paid by others rather than a style assumed by right.
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- Alfonso, Oscar M., ed. (2005). Handbook on Protocol in the University of the Philippines (PDF). Quezon City, Philippines: Office of the Secretary of the University, University of the Philippines System. p. 52. ISBN 971-93031-1-5. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 September 2021. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
- Alfonso, Oscar M., ed. (2005). Handbook on Protocol in the University of the Philippines (PDF). Quezon City, Philippines: Office of the Secretary of the University, University of the Philippines System. pp. 52–67. ISBN 971-93031-1-5. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 September 2021. Retrieved 2 August 2020.
- See, for example, the Supreme Court e-Practice Directions (PDF), Supreme Court of Singapore, 23 February 2017, p. 16 ("Forms of address"), paragraph 18, archived from the original (PDF) on 1 May 2017: "The Honourable the Chief Justice, on the advice of the Council of Judges, has directed …"; and the Organised Crime Regulations 2016 (S 236/2016), Schedule, Form 2: "To: The Honourable the Justices and Judicial Commissioners of the High Court in Singapore".
- See, for example, the Rules of Court (R 5, 2014 Rev. Ed.), First Schedule, Form 238: "Before the Honourable District Judge".
- Standing Orders of Parliament (as amended on 19 October 2004) (PDF), Parliament of Singapore, 19 October 2004, archived from the original (PDF) on 9 May 2010, retrieved 2 November 2009.
- Wong Kan Seng (Leader of the House), "Amendment of Standing Orders (Paper Parl. 4 of 1988)", Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (11 August 1988), vol. 51, cols. 524 and 528.
- See, for example, S. Iswaran (13 March 2017), Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), at the Official Opening of the Australian Landing Pad in Singapore, on Monday, 13 March 2017, 1040 Hrs, at BASH (79 Ayer Rajah Crescent) (PDF), Government of Singapore: "The Honourable Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia, …".