term of address

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

term of address
Professor is a term of address in both the U.S. and Britain, but academics in the two countries use the term in different ways. (Getty Images)


A term of address is a word, phrase, name, or title (or some combination of these) used in addressing someone in writing or in speech. Also called an address term or a form of address.

A term of address may be friendly, unfriendly, or neutral; respectful, disrespectful, or comradely. Although a term of address commonly appears at the beginning of a sentence ("Doctor, I'm not convinced that this treatment is working"), it may also be used between phrases or clauses ("I'm not convinced, doctor, that this treatment is working").

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • "They're magicians, your honor. Men who live by dressing up plain and simple truths to shock, to amaze."
    (Michael Caine as Cutter in The Prestige, 2006)

  • "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks."
    (George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove, 1964)

  • "I beg your Highness to consider, how much preparation such a complicated artifice would have required from the Armenian; what a time it requires to paint a face with sufficient exactness . . .."
    (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus, 1818)

  • "If you've got thin soup, then that's your supper. Sorry, mate. That's the way it is."
    (Christopher Eccleston as Clause in "The Fix." Heroes, 2007)

  • "Look, dude, I understand. Four mil is a lot of money. I get it how you don't want to let on and all."
    (Charlie Huston, Six Bad Things. Ballantine, 2005)

  • "Professor, without knowing precisely what the danger is, would you say it's time for our viewers to crack each other's heads open and feast on the goo inside?"
    (Kent Brockman in "Homer the Vigilante." The Simpsons, 1994)

  • "So I said, 'Look, buddy, your car was upside-down when I got here. And as for your grandmother, she shouldn't have mouthed off like that.'"
    (Homer in "Homer the Vigilante." The Simpsons, 1994)

  • "Ha ha ha! Fools! You idiot Earthlings! Now you know what pain is!"
    (Prince Zordar, Star Blazers, 1979)

  • "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears."
    (Marc Antony in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare)

  • "Sweetheart, you can't buy the necessities of life with cookies."
    (Alan Arkin as Bill in Edward Scissorhands, 1990)

  • The Asymmetric Use of Names and Terms of Address
    "The asymmetric use of names and address terms is often a clear indicator of a power differential. School classrooms are almost universally good examples; John and Sally are likely to be children and Miss or Mr Smith to be teachers. For a long time in the southern states of the United States, whites used naming and addressing practices to put blacks in their place. Hence the odious use of Boy to address black males. The asymmetric use of names also was part of the system. Whites addressed blacks by their first names in situations which required them to use titles, or titles and last names, if they were addressing whites. There was a clear racial distinction in the process."
    (Ronald Wardhaugh, An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Wiley-Blackwell, 2006)

  • Changing Terms
    "Nominal forms of address have undergone changes in the course of time, and the system has become simpler. Present-day English has a fairly reduced selection of address terms, including nouns of kinship and occupation as well as nicknames and terms of endearment. Most nominal address terms can also be used as referring expressions, and a few have acquired metaphorical meanings."
    (Irma Taavitsainen, "The Case of Address Terms." Mapping English Metaphor Through Time, ed. by Wendy Anderson, Ellen Bramwell, and Carole Hough. Oxford University Press, 2016)

  • Thou and Thee, Ye and You
    "French usage spread to England in the Middle Ages and thou (nominative) and thee (accusative), the singular forms, began to be used as intimate singular forms, while ye and you, the plural forms, were used as non-familiar singular forms. This usage continued until the 17th century, when thou and thee dropped out and you became the regular singular as well as plural."
    (Barry J. Blake, All About Language. Oxford University Press, 2008)
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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "term of address." ThoughtCo, Dec. 22, 2016, thoughtco.com/term-of-address-1692533. Nordquist, Richard. (2016, December 22). term of address. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/term-of-address-1692533 Nordquist, Richard. "term of address." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/term-of-address-1692533 (accessed May 22, 2018).