Spanish Titles: A Quick Guide to Spanish Honorifics
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Imagine you are on a website and you find yourself having to choose whether you want to be referred to as Sr., Sra., or Srta. Do you know which one to choose? If you don’t know what these abbreviations mean or if you are looking to expand your knowledge, stay with us because today we will tell you all about honorifics or titles in Spanish.
Spanish titles are a very important part of the culture, and they have their own nuances and contexts. In general, we can divide them into four groups: personal, academic, official, and noble titles. Although the latter are not very relevant to contemporary daily life, some current honorifics come from them so they’re still good to know.
Let us begin, then, lords and madams!
Personal Titles in Spanish
In this category we will include the basic honorifics used to refer to people on a daily basis along with their abbreviations. In Latin America, the use of these titles plays a very important role in social dynamics, and they are key to showing respect and courtesy. Let’s take a look at this list of titles in Spanish.
|Missus, Mrs., Madame, Ma’am
In the case of women, the titles señora and señorita depend on two factors: marriage and age. Before marriage, all women are regarded as señoritas, whatever their age. However, it is common for middle-aged and elderly women to be called señoras, without knowing whether they are married or not. Sometimes this can be problematic, because some women may be offended if they think you are calling them old.
There are also people who prefer not to be called by any honorifics because they feel it distances them from others. In any case, you can always ask them what they prefer to be called, but in the event that you don’t know them, it is best to use the honorific unless you are asked otherwise.
On the other hand, don and doña basically have the same meaning as señor and señora. They all share the Latin and noble origin, and therefore also share the age nuance we talked about in the previous paragraph. However, the use of don and doña has decreased in Latin America, and in some regions it has changed its nuance of distinction for a more friendly one. As a result, the diminutive doñita even exists!
Let’s see some examples using these Spanish titles both written out and in abbreviation:
- El señor Rodríguez compró la fábrica de la ciudad. – Mr. Rodriguez bought the factory in the city.
- La señora Luisa es muy amable. – Mrs. Luisa is very kind.
- Gracias por venir, señor Rodrigo. – Thank you for coming, Mr. Rodrigo.
- ¡Basta, señorita! ¡No más malas palabras! – Enough, Miss! No more bad words!
- Señora Pérez, ¿se encuentra bien? – Mrs. Perez, are you all right?
- Esta carta va dirigida al Sr. y la Sra. Hernández. – This letter is addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Hernandez.
- Don Eduardo ha estudiado mucho. – Sir Eduardo has studied a lot.
- Doña Margarita fue profesora hace muchos años. – Lady Margarita was a teacher many years ago.
- D. Julio es un hombre importante. – Sir Julio is an important man.
Rules for using personal titles in Spanish
There are 3 basic rules when using personal titles in Spanish:
1. We can use señor, señora, and señorita before first and last names, while don and doña can only accompany a first name.
2. We don’t capitalize Spanish titles when they’re written out, whereas the abbreviations must always be capitalized.
3. When referring to someone by señor, señora, or señorita in the third-person, we always include the definite article el or la, whereas when we address someone directly we don’t include an article. We don’t use articles at all with don and doña.
Academic Titles in Spanish
In academic and work contexts, honorifics related to the degree and type of education are usually quite important. They may also be used outside of these contexts if the aim is to highlight someone’s academic ranking. Keep in mind that some of these titles are not really used in English, so the translation is usually just Mr. or Ms.
Let’s take a look at the three levels of academic titles in Spanish, each with both masculine (m) and femenine (f) versions:
|Master, Magister (m)
|Master, Magister (f)
|Doctor, Dr. (m)
|Doctor, Dr. (f)
It may seem a little confusing as the titles below a doctoral degree aren’t really used in English, but it’s actually quite simple: a licenciado or licenciada is a person with a bachelor’s degree, a maestro or maestra is a person with a Master’s degree, and a doctor or doctora has a doctoral degree. Maestro and maestra are also used when referring to teachers, particularly those who instruct children, so the context is important when using this professional title in Spanish.
Let’s see some examples. Note that, as we saw in the previous section, the same usage rules apply on capitalization and definite articles:
- La licenciada Olga ha ganado muchos premios. – Ms. Olga has won many awards.
- El licenciado López estará presente en la reunión. – Mr. Lopez will be present at the meeting.
- Lic. Rodríguez, pase al frente. – Mr. Rodriguez, please come forward.
- El maestro Dudamel tiene una larga trayectoria como investigador. – Mr. Dudamel has a long trajectory as a researcher.
- Gracias por la invitación, Dra. Pamela. – Thank you for the invitation, Dr. Pamela.
Official Titles in Spanish
These Spanish honorifics are used in contexts in which very important people from the political, legal, and academic domains are addressed. In this section, we will only look at the most frequent official titles in Spanish, as they, and the people addressed with them, vary from country to country.
In Argentina, for example, the use of these titles to address judges or other judicial authorities is not recommended at all. But don’t worry, if you’re expected to use one of these titles with someone, you’ll probably be informed to do so based on the level of protocol!
|Your honor (m)
|Your honor (f)
|The Most Excellent (m)
|excelentísimo señor, excelencia
|The Most Excellent (f)
|excelentísima señora, excelencia.
|The Most Illustrious (m)
|The Most Illustrious (f)
- ¡Objeción, su señoría! – Objection, Your Honor!
- La excelentísima señora Virginia Zapata, vicerrectora de la Universidad Central, dará el discurso de bienvenida. – The Most Excellent Virginia Zapata, Vice Chancellor of the University, will give the welcoming address.
- ¿En qué puedo servirle, ilustrísimo señor? – How may I be of service, Most Illustrious?
- La ceremonia dará inicio con la entrada del excelentísimo y magnífico señor rector de la universidad. – The ceremony will begin with the entrance of the Most Excellent and Magnificent Chancellor of the University.
- Ilma. Sra decana, gracias por su amable visita. – Most illustrious Dean, thank you for your kind visit.
Spanish Nobility Titles
Nowadays, the use of these titles is uncommon. Unless you meet someone from the Spanish nobility, of course! Nonetheless, it is always good to know them as they are still part of Hispanic culture and literature.
In this section we also include some religious titles of the Catholic Church, since they are very common in everyday contexts in Spanish-speaking countries.
We have not included abbreviations of Spanish nobility titles since it is not common to see them in written texts, whereas religious titles are commonly abbreviated.
|Spanish nobility: English
|Spanish nobility: Spanish
|Religious titles: English
|Religious titles: Spanish
- El rey Fernando de Aragón nació en 1452. – King Ferdinand of Aragon was born in 1452.
- La princesa Leonor cumple 16 años hoy. – Princess Leonor turns 16 today.
- Santo Tomás fue un gran hombre. – Saint Thomas was a great man.
- La catedral de Santa María. – The Cathedral of Saint Mary.
- El beato Agustín es una figura histórica importante. – Blessed Augustine is an important historical figure.
Well done. Now you know which Spanish title you should use when filling out a form on a web page! Shall we do a little review of what we saw in this post?
First we learned that the use of honorifics or titles is a very important cultural aspect when interacting with native speakers, as it is a sign of respect and distinction. Then we looked at the four categories of Spanish titles along with their abbreviations: personal titles, academic titles, official titles, and the titles of Spanish nobility.
Personal titles (señor, señora, señorita, don, and doña) are the most common and have an English equivalent. On the other hand, the professional ones (licenciado, licenciada, maestro, maestra, doctor, doctora) tend to be used only in academic and work contexts and their equivalence in English is not entirely accurate. Official titles are very regional, and anyway someone will let you know if you’re expected to address anyone with one of them. Finally, we looked at titles of nobility in Spanish along with some common religious titles (santo, santa, beato, beata).
That’s it! We hope you found this information useful and that you can now use Spanish titles with confidence. Remember that you can bookmark this post to come back to it whenever you need to. ¡Adiós, señoras y señores! – Goodbye, ladies and gentlemen!