This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Don" honorific – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (July 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

The term Don (Spanish: [don], roughly 'Lord')[a] abbreviated as D., is an honorific prefix primarily used in Spain and Hispanic America, and with different connotations also in Italy, Portugal and its former colonies, and formerly in the Philippines.

Don is derived from the Latin dominus: a master of a household, a title with background from the Roman Republic in classical antiquity. With the abbreviated form having emerged as such in the Middle Ages, traditionally it is reserved for Catholic clergy and nobles, in addition to certain educational authorities and persons of distinction.

The older form of Dom is the variant used in Portuguese, which in Brazil is reserved for bishops. The title is also used among Benedictine monks for those members of the community who have professed perpetual religious vows. The equivalent of Doña or Dame is used by nuns of the Order.

In Spanish, although originally a title reserved for royalty, select nobles, and church hierarchs, it is now often used as a mark of esteem for a person of personal, social or official distinction, such as a community leader of long-standing, a person of significant wealth, or a noble, but may also be used ironically. As a style, rather than a title or rank, it is used with, rather than in place of, a person's name.

The feminine equivalents are Doña (Spanish: [ˈdoɲa]), Donna (Italian: [ˈdɔnna]), Doamnă (Romanian) and Dona (Portuguese: [ˈdonɐ]) abbreviated 'D.ª', 'Da.', or simply 'D.' It is a common honorific reserved for women, especially mature women. In Portuguese Dona tends to be less restricted in use to women than Dom is to men.[1] Today in the Spanish language, Doña is used to respectfully refer to a mature woman. In present-day Hispanic America, the title Don or Doña is sometimes used in honorific form when addressing a senior citizen. In some countries, Don or Doña may be used as a generic honorific, similar to Sir and Madam in the United States.

Syntactically, in Spanish, don and doña are used in a way similar to "mister" (señor) and "missus" (señora), but convey a higher degree of reverence, although not necessarily as high as knightly or noble titles such as lord and dame. Unlike The Honourable in English (but like the English Sir for a knight or baronet), Don may be used when speaking directly to a person, and unlike mister it must be used with a given name. For example, "Don Diego de la Vega" or simply "Don Diego" (the secret identity of Zorro) are typical forms. But a form using the last name (e.g. "Don de la Vega") is not considered correct and rarely would be used by Spanish speakers ("señor de la Vega" would be used instead).

Spanish-speaking countries and territories

Historically, don was used to address members of the nobility, e.g. hidalgos, as well as members of the secular clergy. The treatment gradually came to be reserved for persons of the blood royal, and those of such acknowledged high or ancient aristocratic birth as to be noble de Juro e Herdade, that is, "by right and heredity" rather than by the king's grace. However, there were rare exemptions to the rule, such as the mulatto Miguel Enríquez who received the distinction from Philip V due to his privateering work in the Caribbean. By the twentieth century it was no longer restricted in use to even the upper classes, since persons of means or education (at least of a "bachiller" level), came to be so addressed as regardless of background. It is now often used as a more formal version of Señor, a term which itself was also once used to address someone with the quality of nobility (not necessarily holding a nobiliary title). This was, for example, the case of military leaders addressing Spanish troops as "señores soldados" (gentlemen-soldiers).

Don would roughly translate to "mister" or "esquire".[2][3]


During the reign of King Juan Carlos of Spain from 1975 until his abdication as monarch on 19 June 2014, he was titled Su Majestad [S. M.] el Rey Juan Carlos (His Majesty King Juan Carlos). Following the abdication, Juan Carlos and his wife are titled, according to the Royal Household website, S. M. el Rey Don Juan Carlos (H.M. King Juan Carlos) and S. M. la Reina Doña Sofía (H.M. Queen Sofía)—the same as during his reign, with the honorific Don/Doña prefixed to the names. Juan Carlos' successor is S. M. el Rey Felipe VI.[4]


The Spanish usage is similar among Basque speakers in Spain using don[5] and doña.[6] The honorific is sometimes adapted as on as in the priest and scholar on Joxemiel Barandiaran (Spanish: Don José Miguel Barandiarán) or fictional knight On Kixote (Don Quixote).[7][8]

Sephardi Jews

The honorific was also used among Ladino-speaking Sephardi Jews, as part of the Spanish culture which they took with them after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

Hispanic America

The honorific title Don was widely used in Crown documents throughout Hispanic America by those in nobility or landed gentry. It can be found in the many 'Padrones' and "Aguas y Tierras" records in Mexican archives. The honorific in modern times is also widely used throughout the Americas. This is the case of the Mexican New Age author Don Miguel Ángel Ruiz,[9] the Chilean television personality Don Francisco,[10] and the Puerto Rican industrialist and politician Don Luis Ferré,[11] among many other figures. Although Puerto Rican politician Pedro Albizu Campos had a doctoral degree, he has been titled Don.[12] Likewise, Puerto Rican Governor Luis Muñoz Marín has often been called Don Luís Muñoz Marin instead of Governor Muñoz Marin.[13] In the same manner, Don Miguel Ángel Ruiz is an M.D.[14] Additionally the honorific is usually used with people of older age.

The same happens in other Hispanic American countries. For example, despite having a doctoral degree in theology, the Paraguayan dictator José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia was usually styled as "Don". Likewise, despite being a respected military commander with the rank of Brigade General, Argentine Ruler Juan Manuel de Rosas was formally and informally styled "Don" as a more important title.

Prior to the American ownership of the Southwest, a number of Americans immigrated to California, where they often became Mexican citizens and changed their given names to Spanish equivalents, for example "Juan Temple" for Jonathan Temple.[15] It was common for them to assume the honorific "don" once they had attained a significant degree of distinction in the community.


In Spanish colonial Philippines, this honorific was reserved to the nobility, the prehispanic datu[16] that became the principalía,[17]: 218  whose right to rule was recognised by Philip II on 11 June 1594.[18]: tit. VII, ley xvi  Similar to Latin America, the title Don is considered highly honoured,[19] more so than academic titles such as "Doctor", political titles such as "Governor", and even knights titled "Sir". Usage was retained during the American period, although traditional official positions of the principalía (e.g., gobernadorcillo and cabeza de barangay) were replaced by American political positions such as the municipal president.[20] The practise slowly faded after World War II, as heirs of the principalía often did not inherit the title, and as civic leaders were chosen by popular election. Prior to 1954,[21] the appointment and tenure of mayors was at the pleasure of the president of the Philippines, pursuant to Commonwealth Act No. 158 amending Commonwealth Act No. 57., Section 8 of Commonwealth Act No. 158, as amended by Republic Act No. 276.[22] The 1987 Constitution, meanwhile, explicitly prohibits recognition of titles of nobility, thus the terms Don and Doña are now courtesy titles with no requirements for their attainment other than common usage for socially prominent and rich persons.


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Don" honorific – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (July 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Officially, Don was the honorific title exclusively reserved for a member of a noble family such a principe, a duca, a marchese or a conte (and any legitimate, male-line descendant thereof). A reigning prince or duke would also be entitled to some form of the higher style of Altezza (eg Sua Altezza Serenissima, Sua Altezza Reale) in addition to the Don. This was how the style was used in the Almanach de Gotha for extant families in its third section focused on the 200 non sovereign princely and ducal families of Europe.[citation needed]

The last official Italian nobility law (abrogated 1948) stated that the style belonged to members of the following groups:

Genealogical databases and dynastic works still reserve the title for this class of noble by tradition, although it is no longer a right under Italian law.

In practice, however, the style Don/Donna (or Latin Dominus/Domina) was used more loosely in church, civil and notarial records. The honorific was often accorded to the untitled gentry (e.g., knights or younger sons of noblemen), priests, or other people of distinction. It was, over time, adopted by organized criminal societies in Southern Italy (including Naples, Sicily, and Calabria) to refer to members who held considerable sway within their hierarchies.

In modern Italy, the title is usually only given to Roman Catholic diocesan priests (never to prelates, who bear higher honorifics such as monsignore, eminenza, and so on). In Sardinia, until recently it was commonly used for nobility (whether titled or not), but it is being presently used mainly when the speaker wants to show that he knows the don's condition of nobility.

Outside of the priesthood or old nobility, usage is still common in Southern Italy, mostly as an honorific form to address the elderly, but it is rarely, if ever, used in Central Italy or Northern Italy. It can be used satirically or ironically to lampoon a person's sense of self-importance.[citation needed]

Don is prefixed either to the full name or to the person's given name. The form "Don Lastname" for crime bosses (as in Don Corleone) is an American custom. In Southern Italy, mafia bosses are addressed as "Don Firstname" by other mafiosi and sometimes their victims as well, while the press usually refers to them as "Firstname Lastname", without the honorific.

Priests are the only ones to be referred as "Don" plus the last name (e.g. Don Marioni), although when talking directly to them they are usually addressed as "Don" plus the first name (e.g. Don Francesco), which is also the most common form used by parishioners when referring to their priest.

Portuguese-speaking countries and territories

The usage of Dom was a prerogative of princes of royal blood and also of other individuals to whom it had been granted by the sovereign.[24] In most cases, the title was passed on through the male line. Strictly speaking, only females born of a nobleman bearing the title Dom would be addressed as Dona ('D.ª'), but the style was not heritable through daughters. The few exceptions depended solely on the conditions upon which the title itself had been granted. A well-known exception is the descent of Dom Vasco da Gama.

There were many cases, both in Portugal and Brazil, in which the title of Dom (or Dona) was conceded to, and even bought by, people who were not from royalty. In any case, when the title was officially recognized by the proper authority, it became part of the name.

In Portugal and Brazil, Dom (pronounced [ˈdõ]) is used for certain higher members hierarchs, such as superiors, of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. In Catholic religious orders, such as the Order of Saint Benedict, it is also associated with the status of Dom Frater. Dom is similarly used as an honorific for Benedictine monks within the Benedictine Order throughout France and the English speaking world, such as the famous Dom Pérignon. In France, it is also used within the male branch of the Carthusian Order.

It is also employed for laymen who belong to the royal and imperial families (for example the House of Aviz in Portugal and the House of Braganza in Portugal and Brazil).[25] It was also accorded to members of families of the titled Portuguese nobility.[1] Unless ennobling letters patent specifically authorised its use, Dom was not attributed to members of Portugal's untitled nobility: Since hereditary titles in Portugal descended according to primogeniture, the right to the style of Dom was the only apparent distinction between cadets of titled families and members of untitled noble families.[1]

In the Portuguese language, the feminine form, Dona (or, more politely, Senhora Dona), has become common when referring to a woman who does not hold an academic title. It is commonly used to refer to First Ladies, although it is less common for female politicians.


Within the Catholic Church, the prefix Don is usually used for the diocesan priests with their first name, as well as velečasni (The Reverend).


See also: Dom (Christianity)

Dom is used as a title in English for certain Benedictine (including some communities which follow the Rule of St. Benedict) and Carthusian monks, and for members of certain communities of canons regular. Examples include Benedictine monks of the English Benedictine Congregation (e.g. Dom John Chapman, late Abbot of Downside). Since the Second Vatican Council, the title can be given to any monk (lay or ordained) who has made a solemn profession. The equivalent title for a nun is "Dame" (e.g. Dame Laurentia McLachlan, late Abbess of Stanbrook, or Dame Felicitas Corrigan, author).

In popular culture

In the United States, Don has also been made popular by films depicting the Italian mafia, such as The Godfather trilogy, where the crime boss is given by his associates the same signs of respect that were traditionally granted in Italy to nobility. However, the honorific followed by the last name (e.g. Don Corleone) would be used in Italy for priests only: the proper Italian respectful form is similar to the Spanish-language form in that it is applied only to the first name (e.g. "Don Vito"). This title has in turn been applied by the media to real-world mafia figures, such as the nickname "Teflon Don" for John Gotti.

See also


  1. ^ Besides Spanish: [don], there is also: Italian: [dɔn]; Portuguese: Dom [dõ]; Romanian: Domn [domn]; all from Latin dominus).
  1. ^ a b c Tourtchine, Jean-Fred (September 1987). "Le Royaume de Portugal – Empire du Brésil". Cercle d'Études des Dynasties Royales Européennes (CEDRE). III: 103. ISSN 0764-4426.
  2. ^ "don – Diccionario Inglés-Español". Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  3. ^ "Check out the translation for "don" on SpanishDict!". SpanishDict. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  4. ^ Website of Royal Household of Spain, La Familia Real, post-abdication
  5. ^ "don". OEH - Bilaketa - OEH (in Spanish). Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  6. ^ "doña". OEH - Bilaketa - OEH (in Spanish). Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  7. ^ Morris, Mikel (4 November 2003). "on". Morris Student Plus (in Basque). Kultura Saila - Hizkuntza Politikarako Sailburuordetza. Retrieved 3 May 2023. On iz. (G) [ izenen aurrean ] Sir, Don; O~ Mikel Sir Michael
  8. ^ "don". Diccionario Elhuyar (in Basque). Elhuyar Fundazioa. Retrieved 3 May 2023. jaun, On, don
  9. ^ "". Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  10. ^ "Pan American Health Organization. Perspectives in Health Magazine: The Magazine of the Pan American Health Organization". 11 September 2001. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  11. ^ "Statement by President George W. Bush on Don Luis Ferre. October 22, 2003. The White House. Washington, D.C". 22 October 2003. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  12. ^ "Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning. Columbia University". Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  13. ^ Primera Hora (Electronic Edition of the El Nuevo Dia newspaper). Senate of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Senate Resolution 937. February 11, 2010. Archived 11 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Vitality: Toronto's Monthly Wellness Journal". Archived from the original on 24 July 2010. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  15. ^ "Rancho los Cerritos". Archived from the original on 18 September 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2010.
  16. ^ For more information about the social system of the Indigenous Philippine society before the Spanish colonization confer Barangay in Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada Europea-Americana, Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, S. A., 1991, Vol. VII, p.624.
  17. ^ BLAIR, Emma Helen & ROBERTSON, James Alexander, eds. (1906). The Philippine Islands, 1493–1898. Vol. 40 of 55 (1690–1691). Historical introduction and additional notes by Edward Gaylord BOURNE. Cleveland, Ohio: Arthur H. Clark Company. ISBN 978-0559361821. OCLC 769945730. Explorations by early navigators, descriptions of the islands and their peoples, their history and records of the catholic missions, as related in contemporaneous books and manuscripts, showing the political, economic, commercial and religious conditions of those islands from their earliest relations with European nations to the close of the nineteenth century.
  18. ^ de León Pinelo, Antonio Rodríguez & de Solórzano Pereira, Juan [in Spanish], eds. (1680). Recopilación de Leyes de los Reynos de las Indias (in Spanish). Vol. Libro Sexto. Archived from the original (pdf) on 27 May 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2014. Títulos: i De los Indios. ii De la libertad de los Indios. iii De las Reducciones, y Pueblos de Indios. iv De las caxas de censos, y bienes de Comunidad, y su administracion. v De los tributos, y tassas de los Indios. vi De los Protectores de Indios. vii De los Caciques. viii De los repastimientos, encomiendas, y pensiones de Indios, y calidades de los titulos. ix De los Encomenderos de Indios. x De el buen tratamiento de los Indios. xi De la sucession de encomiendas, entretenimientos, y ayudas de costa. xii Del servicio personal. xiii Del servicio en chacras, viñas, olivares, obrajes, ingenios, perlas, tambos, requas, carreterias, casas, ganados, y bogas. xiv Del servicio en coca, y añir. xv Del servicio en minas. xvi De los Indios de Chile. xvii De los Indios de Tucuman, Paraguay, y Rio de la Plata. xviii De los Sangleyes. xix De las confirmaciones de encomiendas, pensiones, rentas, y situaciones.
  19. ^ The use of the honorific addresses "Don" and "Doña" was strictly limited to what many documents during the colonial period would refer to as "vecinas y vecinos distinguidos". An example of a document of the Spanish colonial government mentioning the "vecinos distinguidos" is the 1911 Report written by R. P. Fray Agapito Lope, O.S.A. (parish priest of Banate, Iloilo in 1893) on the state of the Parish of St. John the Baptist in this town in the Philippines. The second page identifies the "vecinos distinguidos" of the Banate during the last years of the Spanish rule. The original document is in the custody of the Monastery of the Augustinian Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines in Valladolid, Spain. Cf. Fray Agapito Lope 1911 Manuscript, p. 1. Also cf. Fray Agapito Lope 1911 Manuscript, p. 2. In these documents, Spanish Friars would place "D" (Don) before the name of a Filipino notable, and "Da" (Dona) before the name of a filipina notable.
  20. ^ When the Americans appointed local officials at the onset of their rule, like the Spaniards they also acknowledged the ruling class. In the list of the municipal leaders, American documents placed the traditional Spanish title of these local notables – the title of "Don". Cf. Annual report of the Philippine Commission / Bureau of Insular Affairs, War Department to the President of the United States, Washington D.C.: 1901, Vol. I, p. 130. [1]
  21. ^ Cf. Jennifer Franco, Heyday of Casique Democracy (1954–1972) in Elections and Democratization in the Philippines, 2001: New York, Routledge, Chapter 3.
  22. ^ Sample of an actual document, dated 25 July 1953, attesting that Mayors used to be appointed.
  23. ^ (in Italian) Ordinamento dello stato nobiliare italiano ("Statute of Italian nobility condition") approved by Royal Decree 651 dated 7 June 1943: art. 39. When opening the link, click on Statuto e Elenco Nobiliare Sardo on the left and then on the Ordinamento itself (second link).
  24. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Dominus". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 405.
  25. ^ Angus Stevenson, ed. (2007). Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Vol. 1, A–M (Sixth ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 737. ISBN 978-0-19-920687-2.