, as a title, originates from the Latin word
) which means
. The word is originally an agentive
noun of the verb docēre
teach'). It has been used as an honored academic title for over a
in Europe, where it dates back
to the rise of the university
. This use
spread to the Americas
, former European
, and is now prevalent in most of
the world. Abbreviated "Dr" or "Dr.", it is used as a designation
for a person who has obtained a doctorate
-level degree. Doctorates may be research doctorates
. When addressing several people, both of whom holds
a doctoral title, one may use the plural abbreviation "Drs." or in
some languages, Dres.
, may be used, e.g., instead of Dr.
Miller and Dr. Rubinstein: Drs. Miller and Rubinstein. When
referring to relatives with the same surname, it is common to use
the form "The Doctors Smith".
The origins of the doctorate
lie in the
("license to teach and issue
legal opinions") in the medieval Islamic madrasahs
from the 9th century. The foundations of
the first universities in Europe were the glossators
of the 11th century, which were
schools of law. The first European university, that of
Bologna, was founded as a school of law by four legal
scholars in the 12th century who were students of the glossator school in that city.
It is from
this history that it is said that the first academic title of
doctor was applied to scholars of law. The degree and title were
not applied to scholars of other disciplines until the 13th
century. And at the University of Bologna from its founding in the 12th century until the end
of the 20th century the only degree conferred was the doctorate,
usually earned after five years of intensive study after secondary
The rising of the doctor of philosophy to its
present level is a modern development. At its origins, a doctorate
was simply a qualification for a guild
Doctor as a noun
Throughout most of the academic world, the term "doctor" refers to
an individual who earned a degree of Doctor of Philosophy, or
(an abbreviation for the Latin
; or alternatively Doctor
, D.Phil., originally from the Greek Διδάκτωρ
Φιλοσοφίας, Didáktōr Philosophías
, meaning Teacher of
Philosophy), or other research doctorates such as the Doctor of
Science, or Sc.D.
(an abbreviation of the
Latin Scientiae Doctor
). Beyond academia and in the
classical professions, such as medicine and the law, the
professional doctorates emerged such as the Doctor of Medicine
(an abbreviation of the
Latin Medicinæ Doctor
), or Bachelor of Medicine and
Surgery MBBS, MBChB,
MB, BCh, etc.
(an abbreviation of the Latin Medicinae
Baccalaureus et Baccalaureus Chirurgiae), and the Juris Doctor
or Doctor of Jurisprudence
The first academic degrees
, and the first law degrees
. The origins of the
doctorate dates back to the ijazat attadris
("license to teach and issue legal opinions")
in the medieval Islamic Madrasahs
taught Islamic law
since the 9th century. The
foundations for the first European
were the glossators
the 11th century, which were schools of
that taught Canon law
and Roman law
. The first European university, the University of
Bologna, was founded as a school of law by four famous
legal scholars in the 12th century who were students of the
glossator school in Bologna.
is from this history that it is said that the first academic title
of doctor applied to scholars of law. The degree and title were not
applied to scholars of other disciplines until the 13th century.
Bologna, from its founding in the 12th century until the
end of the 20th century, the only degree conferred was the
doctorate, usually earned after five years of intensive study after
The rising of the doctor of philosophy to
its present level is a modern novelty. At its origins, a doctorate
was simply a qualification for a guild
The earliest doctoral degrees (theology, law, and medicine)
reflected the historical separation of all university study into
these three fields. Over time the D.D. has gradually become less
common and studies outside theology and medicine have become more
common (such studies were then called "philosophy", but are now
classified as sciences and humanities - however this usage survives
in the degree of Doctor of Philosophy).
The Ph.D. was originally a degree
granted by a university
individuals who had achieved the approval of their peers and who
had demonstrated a long and productive career in the field of
philosophy. The appellation of "Doctor" (from Latin: teacher) was
usually awarded only when the individual was in middle age. It
indicated a life dedicated to learning, to knowledge, and to the
spread of knowledge.
entered widespread use in the 19th century at the Friedrich
Wilhelm University in Berlin as a degree to be granted to someone who
had undertaken original research in the sciences or
humanities. From there it spread to the United States,
arriving at Yale
University in 1861, and
then to the United
Kingdom in 1921.
This displaced the existing Doctor
of Philosophy degree in some Universities; for instance, the
D.Phil. (higher doctorate in the faculty of
philosophy) at the University of St Andrews was discontinued and replaced with the Ph.D.
(research doctorate). However, some UK universities such as
Oxford and Sussex (and, until
recently, York) retain the D.Phil. appellation for their research
degrees, as, until recently, did the University of
Waikato in New
In the US,
the Doctor of Science, Sc.D., is an academic research degree that was first
conferred in North America by Harvard University in 1872, and is relatively rarer than the
However, the Sc.D.
long been awarded by leading institutions such as Harvard
University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, Boston University, Washington University in St. Louis,
etc. At many of these universities, the academic requirements for
the Ph.D. and Sc.D. are identical, and with identical doctoral
academic regalia. In effort to standardize doctoral degree
conferral at these large research institutions, the Ph.D. has
replaced and grandfathered the Sc.D. in certain programs, while the
Sc.D. is preserved in parallel to the Ph.D. as the highest
conferred research doctorate.
Some ability to carry out original research
must be documented by producing a dissertation or thesis
, often of substantial length. The degree and
title "doctor" is often a prerequisite for permanent (or nearly
as a university lecturer
or as a researcher
in some sciences, though this varies on a regional basis. In others
such as engineering
, a doctoral degree is considered desirable
but not essential for employment.
While most US lawyers and physicians who pursue purely academic and
research careers in law and medicine do so after having earned a
J.D. or M.D., respectively, these degrees are regarded as
professional doctorates because most who earn them pursue careers
as working professionals. In more recent times other professional
doctorates have emerged such as the EdD (usually held by school
administrators), the DBA and the DPA (nearly always earned by prior
recipients of the M.B.A. and the M.P.A., who continue to pursue
ongoing professional careers in business and public administration)
and the DPT (most often awarded to future physical therapy
practitioners as an alternative to the usual M.P.T.).
Medical and other health professions
Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries like India, those
training for the medical profession complete either a 5-6 year
course or an accelerated 4-year graduate
entry course that leads to the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine,
Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS, MBChB, or other similar
abbreviation); the higher postgraduate degree of Doctor of Medicine (MD) is reserved for
those who can prove a particular distinction on the field, usually
through a body of published work or the submission of a
States, those training for the medical profession complete
a four-year undergraduate course of study and may continue on to
earn either the doctoral level Doctor
of Medicine (M.D.) degree or the doctoral level Doctor of Osteopathic
Medicine (D.O.) degree.
In other health-related
disciplines such as physical
, naturopathic medicine
Doctor of Nursing
, and veterinary
, where the professional doctorate is the degree which
serves as the 'entry-level' degree for practitioners, a similar
educational framework exists and leads to a doctoral degree. Such
professionals typically use the title 'Dr' professionally and
socially, although a podiatrist would often be referred to as a
"podiatric surgeon" and a dentist a "dental surgeon".
in the House of Commons of the United
Kingdom on January 19, 1996, health minister Gerald Malone noted that the title doctor had
never been restricted to either medical practitioners or those with
doctoral degrees in the UK, commenting that the word was defined by
common usage but that the titles "physician, doctor of medicine,
licentiate in medicine and surgery, bachelor of medicine, surgeon,
general practitioner and apothecary" did have special protection in
For many years the UK's General
(GDC) regarded the use of the title doctor by
as a disciplinary offence, but on November 14,
1995 the GDC ruled that dentists could use the title doctor
thenceforth provided that they did not do so to imply that they
held qualifications that they did not possess.
In guidance issued by Who's Who
published by A & C
Black, it is noted that in the context of the UK, "not all
qualified medical [practitioners] hold the [MD] degree" but that
"those ... who have not taken [it] are addressed as if they had." A
& C Black also note that British surgeons
designation reserved for those who have obtained membership of the
Royal College of Surgeons - are addressed as Mr, Mrs or Miss rather
than Dr. This custom has been commented on in the British
and may stem from the historical origins of
In German language
countries, the word Doktor
always refers to a research
doctorate awardee, and is distinct from Arzt
, a medical
practitioner. An Arzt
who holds the Dr. med.
degree is addressed as Herr Doktor
; an Arzt
does not would simply be Herr
. This rule has been weakened
recently, and people (e.g. in Austria) refer to medical
practitioners as Doktor
Historically, lawyers in most European countries were addressed
with the title of doctor, and countries outside of Europe have
generally followed the practice of the European country which had
policy influence through modernization or colonialization. The
first university degrees, starting with the law school of the
University of Bologna (or glossators) in the 11th century, were all
law degrees and doctorates. Degrees in other fields were not
granted until the 13th century, but the doctorate continued to be
the only degree offered at many of the old universities up until
the 20th century. As a result, in many of the southern European
countries, including Portugal, Spain and Italy, lawyers have
traditionally been addressed as “doctor,” a practice which was
transferred to many countries in South America (as well as Macau in
The title of doctor has not customarily been used to address
lawyers in England or other common law countries (with the
exception of the United States) because until 1846 lawyers in
England were not required to have a university degree and were
trained by other attorneys by apprenticeship or in the Inns of
Court. As such, lawyers in England were not doctoral candidates and
had not earned the doctorate level degree. When university degrees
became a prerequisite to become a lawyer in England, the degree
awarded was the undergraduate LL.B.
Though lawyers in the United States do not customarily use such a
title, the law degree in that country is the Juris Doctor
, a professional doctorate degree,
and some J.D. holders in the United States use the title of
"Doctor" in professional and academic situations. In countries
where holders of the first law degree traditionally use the title
of doctor (e.g. Peru, Brazil, Macau, Portugal, Argentina, and
Italy), J.D. holders who are attorneys will often use the title of
doctor as well.
In many Asian countries, the proper title for a lawyer is simply,
“lawyer,” but holders of the Juris Doctor degree are also called
Customs for the use of the nouns "doctor," "a doctor," the stand
alone form of address "Doctor," and the honorific "Dr. _____" vary
throughout the world.
Austria academic titles become part of the name and are
therefore added to all personal ID documents.
legal transactions, such as land purchases, the person has to sign
with the title, even if the person's usual signature does not
include the title (has elected to omit it).
France, the title
of Docteur is only used by physicians, dentists,
veterinarians and pharmacists.
Confusingly, they do not hold
, which is in France only a
research doctorate, but a "State Diploma of Doctor". The holders of
a doctorate are never addressed as "Doctors", even in an academic
Germany, all holders of doctorate degrees are appropriately
addressed as "Dr. _____" in all social situations.
those granted PhDs from other countries may find themselves in
legal difficulties if they use the term "Doktor" professionally in
Double doctorates are indicated in the title by "Dr.Dr."
and triple doctorates as "Dr.Dr.Dr."
. More doctorates are indicated by the addition of
, such as "Dr. mult."
. Honorary titles are
shown with the addition of "hc"
, which stands for
. Example: "Dr. hc. mult."
EU legislation recognises academic qualifications (including higher
degrees and doctorates) of all member states. In Germany, a recent
federal law (signed by all Cultural and Educational Ministers in
accord with the EU law) confirmed the standardisation of
qualifications. Until this Federal Law was introduced, there was no
recognised mechanism to prevent administrators in private bodies
and civil servants in public-funded bodies (such as universities)
from automatically discriminating between the qualifications of
people with German doctorates compared to holders of doctorates
from an EU member state. The German university bureaucratic
practice of using the post-nominal form, "Ph.D." (or equivalent),
to distinguish non-German doctorates can be challenged legally as
evidence of arbitrary discrimination and prejudice against
non-German nationals (academics). All EU citizens are now "legally
entitled" to use and be titled (addressed) as "Doctor" or "Dr." in
all formal, legal and published communications. For academics with
doctorates from non-EU member states, the qualification must be
recognised formally ("validated") by the Federal Educational
Ministry in Bonn. The recognition process can be done by the
employer or employee and may be part of the official bureaucracy
for confirming professional status and is dependent on individual
bilateral agreements between Germany and other countries.
An example of mutual recognition of Doctor titles among EU
countries is the "Bonn Agreement of November 14 1994", signed
between Germany and Spain.
In Hungary the title of Doctor used to become a part of the name
and is added as such to personal ID documents. The use of this
practice has been significantly declined in the recent years,
although legally it is still possible.
The first university of the western civilization, the University of
Bologna, is located in Italy, where until modern times the only
degree granted was that of the doctorate, and all other Italian
universities followed that model. During the 20th century Italian
universities introduced more advanced research degrees, such as the
Ph.D., and now that it is part of the E.U. Bologna Process
, a new 3-year degree has
been introduced, known as "laurea breve", and is considered
equivalent to a B.A. of other countries. The old-style "laurea"
(equivalent of a Master's degree) is now known as "laurea
specialistica" and those who have completed the course of study for
this degree carry the title of "dottore/dottoressa" (abbrev.
dott/dott.ssa). Those who have completed a relatively new program
of "dottorato di ricerca" (or research doctorate), carry the title
of doctor, but abbreviated as "Dr./Dr.a".
Philippines, titles and names of occupations usually follow
Spanish naming conventions which
utilise gender-specific terms.
" is the
masculine form, which retains the abbreviation Dr.
feminine form is "Doktóra
", and is abbreviated usually as
"; others, however, some being Anglophones
who wish to sound modern and
Westernised, or some who advocate gender equality, would dispense
with the distinction altogether. There does exist in Filipino
an equivalent, gender-neutral
term for the professional that carries the more general notion of
"healer", traditional (e.g. an albuláryo
) or otherwise:
Portugal, up to recent times after the completion of an
undergraduate degree - except in architecture and engineering - a person was referred to as
doutor (Dr.) - male or doutora (Dra.) -
The architects and engineers were referred by
their profissional titles: arquitecto
Nowadays Portugal is signatory of Bologna process
and in according to the
current legislation the title of doctor (doutor, doutora
is reserved for graduate holders of academic doctorate.
The social standing of Doctors in Spain is evidenced by the fact
that only Ph.D.
seat and cover their heads in the presence of the King.
Degrees are regulated by Royal Decree
(R.D. 1393/2007), Real Decreto
). They are granted by the
University on behalf of the King, and its Diploma has the force of
a public document. The Ministry of Science keeps a National
Registry of Ph.D.s
called TESEO . Any person
who uses the Spanish
"Doctor" (or "Dr.") without being included in this Government
database can be prosecuted for fraud.
Unlike other countries, Spain registers a comparatively small
number of Doctor degree holders. According to the National
Institute of Statistics (INE), less than 5% of M.Sc. degree holders
are admitted to Ph.D. programs, and less than 10% of 1st year Ph.D.
students are finally granted a Doctor title. This reinforces the
prestige that Doctors enjoy in Spain's society.
The usage of Doctor (ดอกเตอร์) or Dr (ดร.) has been borrowed from
English. It can be seen as a title in academic circles and in the
mass media. In contrast to other academic titles (Professor,
Associate Professor and Assistance Professor), the use of Doctor as
a title has not been recognized by the Royal Institute of Thailand
Therefore, this title, in theory, cannot be used officially. For
example, in court of justice where strictly formal Thai language is
used, Dr cannot be mentioned as a person's title.
United Kingdom and Commonwealth Countries
Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and other areas whose cultures were recently linked
to the UK, the title Doctor generally applies in both the
academic and clinical fields.
" hold the degree of Bachelor of Medicine
(usually also with
surgery). Cultural conventions exist, clinicians who are Members
the Royal College of Surgeons
are an exception. As a homage to
their predecessors, the barber
, they prefer to be addressed as Mr, Mrs, Ms or Miss
, even if they do
hold a medical degree. When a medical doctor passes the
examinations which enable them to become a member of one or more of
the Royal Surgical Colleges
and become "MRCS
", it is
customary for them to drop the "Doctor" prefix and take up "Miss",
"Mister", or etc. This rule applies to any doctor of any grade who
has passed the appropriate exams, and is not the exclusive province
of consultant-level surgeons. In recent times, other
surgically-orientated specialists, such as gynaecologists
, have also adopted the these
prefixes. A surgeon who is also a professor is usually known as
"Professor" and, similarly, a surgeon who has been ennobled,
knighted, created a baronet or appointed a dame uses the
corresponding title (Lord, Sir, Dame). Physicians, on the other hand, when they pass
examinations, which enable them to become members of the Royal
College of Physicians, do not drop the "Doctor" prefix and remain Doctor,
even when they are consultants.
In the United Kingdom the
status and rank of consultant surgeons with the MRCS, titled
"Mister", etc., and consultant physicians with the MRCP, titled
"Doctor", is identical. Surgeons in the USA and elsewhere continue
to use the title "Doctor", although New Zealand uses the titles of Mr
and Doctor, in the same way as the United Kingdom.
state of Queensland, Australia, the use of the title "doctor" by health
practitioners is restricted by legislation to medical
practitioners, dentists or individuals holding a doctorate .
Health practitioners who are not medical practitioners or dentists
but hold a doctorate are prohibited from using the title doctor
unless it is followed by the practitioner's name and letters or
words indicating the doctorate held.
Queensland is the only state in Australia where the title doctor is
legally restricted in this manner. This situation is likely to
change with the introduction of a National Registration and
Accreditation Scheme in Australia in the near future .
Canada lies somewhere between British and American usage of the
degree and terminology of "doctor". On one hand all medical
practitioners trained in Canada receive the MD degree and are
referred to as "Doctor". The British use of "Mr", "Mrs", and so on
for surgeons is not followed in Canada. On the other hand, in the
legal profession, graduates of almost all Canadian law schools
receive the LLB degree and not referred to as "doctor" (in a
growing number of Canadian law schools, including Osgoode Hall at
York University, the degree of Juris
is conferred, but the title is not used in practice).
Medicine, Dentistry, and Law (as well as other first professional degree
programs) are generally not considered to be graduate education in
Canada, but rather a specialized professional undergraduate
program. Practitioners in veterinary medicine, optometry and
dentistry have doctorate degrees and are very commonly referred to
with the title "Dr" preceding the specific name, but not referred
to as "a doctor". Practitioners of podiatry and alternative
medicine may not be referred to with the "Dr" honorific in relation
to providing the public with health care services. In Ontario, only
Chiropractors, Dentists, Medical Doctors, Optometrists,
Psychologists, and registered Traditional Chinese Medicine
Practitioners and Acupuncturists
use the title. A registered Naturopathic doctor
may only use the
title “doctor” in written format if he or she also uses the phrase,
"naturopathic doctor", immediately following his or her name.
Honorary degrees, usually LLD, are similar to those in the United
States. Research doctorates - PhD's and ScD's - are entitled to use
the title as well.
As one of the Commonwealth nations, Doctor title is commonly
associated with medical doctor in first sense. Doctorate holders
are entitled to be addressed "Dr." mostly in academic
The title "Dr." is commonly used professionally by all who possess
a doctorate, especially in academic settings. Those with honorary
doctorates do not use the honorific "Dr." in the U.S., even though
they may be entitled to do so in some academic settings. The title
has commonly been used by those holding a doctoral degree socially,
although some believe that such usage promotes social
stratification and is pretentious.
The American College of Clinicians and at least one state
recommends that health care professionals, including physicians, in
the clinical setting use identification with an appropriate badge
or name tag, as patients encounter a number of different
practitioners. For example, all health care professionals should
identify themselves and their profession when first meeting a
Attorneys in the United States rarely use any title, but some
common ones include "Esquire
"Attorney," or "attorney-at-law." As the academic degree held by
U.S. attorneys is the Juris Doctor, a professional doctorate, some
J.D. holders in the United States do use the honorific "Dr." in
professional and academic situations.
In British English
it is not
necessary to indicate an abbreviation with a full stop (period)
after the abbreviation, when the last letter of the abbreviation is
the same as the unabbreviated word, while the opposite holds true
in North American English
This means that while the abbreviation of Doctor is usually written
as "Dr" in most of the Commonwealth, it is usually written as "Dr."
in North America.
Similarly, conventions regarding the punctuation of degree
abbreviations vary. In the United Kingdom, it is increasingly common to omit punctuations
from abbreviations that are not truncations: while the usual
abbreviation of "Esquire" is "Esq.", the usual abbreviation for
"Doctor of Philosophy" is "PhD".
It is not incorrect to use
the fully-punctuated "Ph.D.", though if this pattern is used, it
should be used consistently; practice in particular situations may
vary, and it is always more elegant to be consistent with a local
patterns of usage than to deviate from.
An honorary doctorate is a doctoral degree awarded for service to
the institution or the wider community. This service does not need
to be academic in nature. Often, the same set of degrees is used
for higher doctorates, but they are distinguished as being
: in comprehensive lists, the lettering used
to indicate the possession of a higher doctorate is often adjusted
to indicate this, e.g. "Hon. Sc.D.", as opposed to the earned
research doctorate "Sc.D.
". The degrees of
Doctor of the University (D.Univ.) and Doctor of Humane Letters
(D.H.L.), however, are only awarded as an honorary degree.
Other uses of "Doctor"
- In some regions, such as the Southern United States, "Doctor" is
traditionally added to the first name of people (especially men)
holding doctorates, where it is used in either direct or indirect
- "Doc" is a common nickname for someone with
a doctoral degree, in real life and in fiction — for example, the
character "Doc" in Gunsmoke, Doc Holliday, and pulp hero Doc Savage
- In Roman Catholicism and
several other Christian denominations, a
Doctor of the Church is an
eminent theologian (e.g. Thomas Aquinas, also known as the Angelic
Doctor) from whose teachings the whole Church is held to have
derived great advantage.