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French honorifics are based on the wide use of Madame for women and Monsieur for men.
- "Monsieur" (written M. for short) for a man, The plural is Messieurs (MM. for short).
- "Madame" (Mme) for a married woman. The plural is Mesdames (Mmes).
- "Mademoiselle" (Mlle) for an unmarried woman. The plural is Mesdemoiselles (Mlles).
Feminist movements are pushing for "Madame" being used for all women, on the basis that it would be sexist to have only one word for men, whether they're married or not, but two for women. However, calling a young woman "Mademoiselle" is usually considered more polite due to their young age, and calling a middle-aged woman "Mademoiselle" can be a way to tell her that she looks like she's in her twenties and is therefore often considered flattering.
"Professeur" and "Docteur" are used for medical practitioners, the former for those in teaching positions. The holders of a doctorate other than medical are generally not referred to as Docteurs; Professors in academia used the style Monsieur le Professeur rather than the honorific plain Professeur.
"Maître" (literally, "Master") is used for law professions (solicitors, notaries, auctioneers, bailiffs), whereas judges are not called "Your Honour" but simply "Monsieur le Président" or "Madame le Président" if they preside a court of justice, or "Monsieur le Juge" and "Madame le Juge" otherwise. This does not change regardless of the sex of the lawyer or judge.
Any other honorific is usually created by using "Monsieur" or "Madame" and then adding a title. For instance, "Monsieur le Président" or "Monsieur le Ministre".
Catholic clergy use several specific honorifics.
- Eminence : Cardinals.
- Monseigneur : Bishops, archbishops.
- Mon Père or Monsieur l'Abbé : priests. Le Révérend Père is an old honorifics for priests.
- Dom : for Benedictine monks.
Nobility and Royalty
Kings of France used the honorific Sire, Princes Monseigneur. Queens and Princesses were plain Madame.
Nobles of the rank of Duke used Monsieur le duc/Madame la duchesse, non-royal princes used Prince/Princesse (without the Monsieur/Madame), other noblemen plain Monsieur and Madame. Only servants ever called their employer as Monsieur le comte or Madame la baronne.