The Honourable

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The prefix The Honourable or The Honorable (abbreviated to The Hon., Hon. or formerly The Hon'ble—the latter term is still used in India) is a style that is used before the names of certain classes of persons. It is considered to be an honorific styling.


International diplomacy

In international diplomatic relations, representatives of foreign states are often addressed 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 title according to the State Department of the United States.[1] However, ambassadors and high commissioners are never given the style, with the title "Your Excellency" being used.


In Australia, the style is generally used for an administrator of a territory, government ministers, members of most state Legislative Councils (upper houses), and judges of superior courts.


In May 2013, the style was given approval by the Queen to be granted to the Governor-General of Australia, both retrospectively and for current and future holders of the office,[2] to be used in the form "His/Her Excellency the Honourable" while holding office and as "the Honourable" in retirement.

As of December 2014, the practice of appointing the vice-regal office holder, as well as former living, the style The Honourable for life has been also adopted for the state governors of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania (where it only applied to the current governor and future governors) as well as the Administrator of the Northern Territory.[citation needed].

Government ministers

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,[3] the style is retained for life because it recognises that their appointment to the relevant executive council (when they first become a minister) is an appointment for life and the person technically remains "an Executive Councillor-on-call".[citation needed] In Western Australia, the title is permanent after three years' service in the ministry.[4] In New South Wales, Queensland,[5] South Australia and Tasmania the premiers can advise the Queen of Australia to grant former ministers the style for life. In the Northern Territory, the chief minister can request the administrator to make a recommendation to the governor-general who in turn makes a recommendation to the Queen. A minimum five years' service as a member of the executive council and or as a presiding officer is a prerequisite. 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.

The style "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 the 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. This practice is still followed in New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. In Victoria the practice was abolished in 2003.


Judges of all superior courts are also referred to formally by the style the Honourable, both during and after holding the office.


In Bangladesh, ministers and members of parliaments are entitled to the style "Honorable". On the other hand, the prime minister and the president are styled "The Honorable" or "His/Her Excellency".[6][7]

The Caribbean


Members of the Order of the Caribbean Community are entitled to be styled The Honourable for life.[8]


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". Persons appointed to Her Majesty's Privy Council in London are styled "The Right Honourable". Persons accorded with the Order of Barbados are styled "Sir" (male), or "Dame" (female) as a Knight or Dame of St Andrew; or "The Honourable" as Companion of Honour. Persons made a National Hero of Barbados are styled "The Right Excellent".

Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, much like the continental United States, the term "Honorable" (in Spanish) is used, but not required by law, to address Puerto Rican governors as well as city mayors, members of state and municipal legislatures, judges and property registrars.


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In Canada, the following people are entitled to the style The Honourable (French: l'honorable) for life:[9][10][11]

In addition, some people are entitled to the style while in office only:[11][9]

Derivatives include:

  • The Honourable Mr/Madam Justice — justices of superior courts.
  • The Honourable Judge — judges of provincial courts and formerly judges of district or county courts.[12]

It is usual for speakers of the House of Commons to be made privy councillors, in which case they keep the style for life, and provincial premiers and federal opposition leaders are sometimes also made privy councillors.

Members of the Canadian House of Commons and of provincial legislatures refer to each other during proceedings of the house as "honourable members" (or l'honorable député) but are not entitled to have the Honourable as a prefix in front of their name unless they are privy councillors.[13]

Current and former governors general, prime ministers, chief justices and certain other eminent persons are entitled to the style the Right Honourable for life (or le/la Très honorable in French).


In the Spanish Autonomous Community of Catalonia the word Honorable (Catalan: Honorable) is used for 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.[14]

The Congo

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the prefix 'Honorable' 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 title of 'Venerable'.


A rough equivalent of "The Honourable" would be Hochwohlgeboren ("High Well Born"), which is used for all members of properly 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.

A literal equivalent of "The Honourable", Ehrwürdig or Ehrwürden, is used for Catholic clergy and religious—with the exceptions of priests and abbesses, who are Hochwürden (Reverend). A subdeacon is "Very Honourable" (Wohlehrwürden); a deacon is "Right Honourable" (Hochehrwürden).

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, the prefix "The Honourable" is used for the following people:


In the Republic of India, Vice President, Judges of the Higher Judiciary, i.e., both Supreme Court & High Court, are referred as 'Honourable Mr/Mrs Justice' (written as Hon'ble [15]). The Members of Parliament of both the Upper and the Lower houses are referred to as Honourable Member. Members of the executive, who are also the members of the Legislative such as the Prime Minister are referred to as The Honourable Member/Minister. Usually the abbreviation The Hon. is used before their names. Mayors are addressable with the same decorum.

Isle of Man

In the Isle of Man, the style The Honourable (often abbreviated to Hon.) is used to refer to a Minister while holding office.


In Italy, the style "The Honourable" (Italian: Onorevole) is currently used to refer to a member of the Italian Parliament (Chamber of Deputies and Senate of the Republic) and to a member of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. Former MPs do not maintain the style and the misuse of the term can be punished by law.


In Jamaica, those awarded the Order of Jamaica (considered Jamaica's equivalent to a British knighthood) are styled "The Honourable".


In Macau, the prefix "The Honourable" is used occasionally for the following people:


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In Malaysia, an elected Member of Parliament or State Legislative Assemblyman will be entitled to be referred to as "Yang Berhormat", which is literally "The Honourable".


All members of the unicameral Parliament of Malta are entitled to this prefix.


Recipients of the rank of Grand Officer or above of the Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean 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.

New Zealand

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.[16]

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.[17]

In July 2006 the Governor-General was entitled to use the style "the Honourable" upon assuming office[18][19] until 2010 when former Governors-General were granted the title of "The Right Honourable" if they did not hold the title already or were a Privy Counsellor.[20]

New Zealand office holders who are "Honourable" ex-officio can be granted the style for life as a courtesy when they vacate the office; all honours and awards are published in The New Zealand Gazette.


Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. In the Philippines, the style is usually used to give distinction to any elected official ranging from the smallest political unit, the barangay, to the Congress of the Philippines, which consists of a Senate and House of Representatives. For example, a Kagawad (member of a local legislative council) 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." (as in Hon. Juan de la Cruz).

The Vice-President and the Justices of the Trial Courts are also addressed in this style. Meanwhile, the President of the Philippines is always given the style His/Her Excellency.


Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. 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 honourabe judges. Diplomats are addressed as Your Excellency. The head of state and Prime Minister is addressed her/his excellency.

UNESCO an agency of United Nations conferred Confucius Award, title of honourable upon a Pakistani educationist, Dr. Allah Bakhsh Malik in recognition of leadership role and meritorious services, for the promotion of education, adult literacy and vocational skill development. He is the only Pakistani conferred the honorific title of honourable by United Nations's UNESCO.

Private organisations

Private organisations or religious movements sometimes style a leader or founder as The Honourable; e.g. "The Honourable Elijah Muhammad".

South Africa

All members of the National Assembly of South Africa are entitled to this prefix.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the following people are entitled to the style The Honourable :

United Kingdom and the Commonwealth


Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. In the United Kingdom, all sons and daughters of viscounts and barons (including the holders of life peerages, but not judicial "Lords" who are not peers) 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.

Additionally, a maid of honour is styled with this prefix for life.

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.

Several corporate entities have been awarded the style by Royal Warrant, for example:


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 lower houses of Parliament and other legislatures, members refer to each other as honourable members etc. out of courtesy, but they are not entitled to the style in writing. When members are ordained clergy they will instead be referred to as the honourable and reverend member, with a Queen's counsel called the honourable and learned member and serving or ex-serving members of the military (formerly less of a rarity than today) being styled the honourable and gallant member.

Where a person is entitled to the prefix The Right Honourable, or The Much Honoured they will use this style instead of The Honourable.

United States

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 judges and members of Congress when formally addressing them in writing.[21] 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.[22]

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.[23] 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),[23][24] administrators, members, and commissioners of the various independent agencies, councils, commissions, and boards,[24] federal judges, ambassadors of the United States,[25] U.S. Attorneys,[26] U.S. Marshals,[27] the Librarian of Congress and Public Printer of the United States,[24] and presidentially appointed inspectors general.[28]

High state officials other than governor, such as lieutenant governor[29] and state attorneys general[30] are also accorded the title of "the Honorable." State court judges, justices and justices of the peace, like federal judges, also are accorded "the Honorable" title.[31] Practices vary on whether appointed state official, such as the heads of state Cabinet-level departments are given the title.[23][32] There is also no universal rule for whether city officials other than the mayor (such as city council, board of aldermen and board of selectmen members) are given the title; local practices vary.[33]

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,[24] although one writer disagrees.[34]

Officials nominated to high office but not yet confirmed (e.g., commissioner-designate) and interim or acting officials are generally not accorded the title "the Honorable," except for Cabinet-level officials.[21] In common usage, lawyers in the United States are often accorded the honorific title, particularly by other members of the various bar associations and their various publications, and it is notably seen in obituaries and biographical sketches in magazines and newspapers.

Opinions vary on whether the term "the Honorable" is accorded for life.[23] Emily Post's etiquette manual says that the title should be used only during one's terms of office, but various other protocol authorities, such as Mary Jane McCaffree, Robert Hickey, and Pauline Innis follow the rule of "once an Honorable, always an Honorable."[23][32] It should never, however, based on the rules of etiquette, be used for persons who are deceased.[35]

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.[23] Although the civilian officials, including the service secretaries (e.g., Secretary of the Army) of the Pentagon receive the title,[24] military officers do not receive this title, although they are confirmed by the Senate.

In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, commissioned Kentucky colonels are considered members of the governor's staff and his honorary aides-de-camp, and as such are entitled to the style of Honorable as indicated on their commission certificates. The commission and letters patent granted by the governor and secretary of state bestowing the title of Kentucky colonel refers to the honoree as "Honorable First Name Last Name." However, this style is rarely used with most Kentucky colonels preferring to be referred to and addressed as colonel.[citation needed]

The style The Honorable is used on envelopes when referring to an individual in the third person. It is not used to refer to oneself.[citation needed]

A spouse of someone with the style of The Honorable receives no additional style, unless personally entitled to the style in his or her own right by virtue of holding, or having held, one of the offices mentioned above.

See also


  1. 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 title of “The Honorable” before their names." It is worth noting that Los Angeles has the highest density of consulates and consulates-general of any city in the world. Furthermore, for example, or An authoritative source can be found at where the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs lists all Honorary Consuls with the style of "The Hon."
  2. "The title 'the Honourable' for Governors-General", Australian Government Special Gazette C2013G00681, 8 May 2013.
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  11. 11.0 11.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
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  13. Canadian Heritage – Styles of address – Federal dignitaries
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  16. "Untitled" (11 July 1854) 16 New Zealand Gazette 72.
  17. "Rules for the Grant, Use and Retention of the Title “The Right Honourable” in New Zealand" (23 September 2010) 124 New Zealand Gazette 3251 at 3285.
  18. "Rules for the Use and Grant of the Title "The Honourable" in New Zealand" (20 July 2006) 82 New Zealand Gazette 2561 at 2583.
  19. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  20. "Rules for the Grant, Use and Retention of the Title “The Honourable” in New Zealand" (23 September 2010) 124 New Zealand Gazette 3251 at 3285.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Robert Hickey, How to Use the Honorable (citing Mary Mel French, United States Protocol: The Guide to Official Diplomatic Etiquette).
  22. Is the "t" capitalized in "the Honorable"?
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 Mary K. Mewborn, Too Many Honorables?, Washington Life November 1999.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 Mary Mel French
  25. Ambassadors
  26. U.S. Attorney
  27. Marshal.
  28. Inspector General.
  29. Robert Hickey, Lieutenant Government
  30. Robert Hickey, Attorney General.
  31. Robert Hickey, U.S. State Officials.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Robert Hickey, How to Use "the Honorable".
  33. Robert Hickey, Councilman.
  34. White House staff.
  35. Robert Hickey, "How to Address U.S. Officials, Both Current and Former, As The Honorable" online

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