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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 woman. The plural is Mesdames (Mmes).
- "Mademoiselle" (Mlle) is a traditional alternative for an unmarried woman. The plural is Mesdemoiselles (Mlles).
Usage of "Mademoiselle" varies based on regions and ideology. In Quebec and Switzerland, public administrations have been banned from using this title for a long time. France has taken this step in 2012. In Belgium, its use is not recommended, but not forbidden either.
In France, calling a young woman "Mademoiselle" is usually considered more polite, and calling a middle-aged woman "Mademoiselle" can be a way to tell her that she looks like she is in her twenties and may therefore be considered flattering. In Quebec, on the other hand, this usage may be considered offensive.
"Professeur" (normally feminized as "professeure" outside of France) and "Docteur" (normally feminized as "docteure") 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 la Présidente" ("Madame le Président" is sometimes preferred in France) if they preside a court of justice, or "Monsieur le Juge" and "Madame la Juge" otherwise.
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.