Master (form of address)

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Master is an English honorific for boys and young men.

Origin of the term[edit]

Master was used in England for men of some rank, especially "free masters" of a trade guild and by any manual worker or servant employee addressing his employer (his master), but also generally by those lower in status to gentlemen, priests, or scholars. In the Elizabethan period, it was used between equals, especially to a group ("My masters"), mainly by urban artisans and tradespeople. It was later extended to all respectable men and was the forerunner of Mister.

After its replacement in common speech by Mister, Master was retained as a form of address only for boys who have not yet entered society. By the late 19th century, etiquette dictated that men be addressed as Mister, and boys as Master.

Current usage in UK[edit]

The use of Master as a prefixed title, was according to Leslie Dunkling "until recently ... a way of addressing politely a boy who was too young to be called "Mister","[1] When used in the UK, master is the honorific for boys under 18 years of age.

Master is used sometimes in the UK to describe the male head of a large estate or household who employs many domestic workers.

The heir to a Scottish lordship, barony or viscountcy is given the style or dignity[2] Master of followed by his father's title. For instance, the heir of Lord Elphinstone is known as the Master of Elphinstone.

"Mstr" is used as a prefix for boys on the UK Passport Service online application form.[3]

Current usage in USA[edit]

Nancy Tuckerman of the Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette writes that in the USA, unlike the UK, a boy can be addressed as master only until age eight, then is addressed only by his name with no title until he turns 18, when he takes the title of Mr.,[4] although it is not improper to use Mr. if he is slightly younger.[5] Robert Hickey, deputy director of the Protocol School of Washington, states that "use of Master [as] an honorific when addressing boys is considered old fashioned outside of conservative circles."[6]


  1. ^ Leslie Dunkling, Dictionary of Epithets and Terms of Address (2012).
  2. ^ 2nd edition (1953) of Valentine Heywood's "British Titles" pp103–108
  3. ^
  4. ^ Nancy Dunnan & Nancy Tuckerman, The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette (50th Anniversary ed.) (1995), 662.
  5. ^ Nancy Dunnan & Nancy Tuckerman, The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette (50th Anniversary ed.) (2012), 295.
  6. ^ How to Address Children.