Fantastic Honorifics

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Many cultures have extremely detailed systems of titles and honorifics, denoting who is speaking to who, what their respective ranks are, and a thousand other factors. Writers often find these are too dull to use in their works (or maybe they just need an honorific for wizards), so they make their own.

See also Hold Your Hippogriffs. Closely related to Fantastic Rank System, and not to be confused with Sobriquet (for unique earned titles).

Examples of Fantastic Honorifics include:


Interestingly, the phrase "ser" is a very common stock fantastic honorific, often gender-neutral.


  • "Ser" as a gender-neutral form of "Sir" is used in several of L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s novels.
  • "Ser" is used as the equivalent of "Mister" in Frank Herbert's Con Sentiency stories.
  • "Ser" is also used (in the same way, gender-neutral form of "sir") in the Uplift series by David Brin.
  • "Ser" is directly equivalent to "Sir" in A Song of Ice and Fire, being most frequently applied to knights.
  • A short story by Stephen R. Donaldson was "Ser Visal's Tale," in which the title character told some college students the facts behind a mysterious occurrence at a recent witchcraft trial. Including that he knew these facts because he'd helped the accused and her rescuer escape.
  • C. J. Cherryh's Merovingen Nights Shared World series has the polite addresses "m'ser" for males and "m'sera" for females. It helps establish Anastasi Kalugin as Faux Affably Evil when he, younger son of the city's ruler, repeatedly addresses lower-class heroine Altair Jones as "m'sera."

Video Games

  • "Ser" also appears as a title in Privateer 2: The Darkening, first used to refer to the main character of Ser Lev Arris (played by Clive Owen before he became famous years later). The same game featured "Sera" as a feminized version of the title for women.
  • The Dunmer use a system of honorifics in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. They are "sera", "muthsera" and "serjo", in increasing order of politeness.
  • In Dragon Age II, Serah is used for addressing someone of equal or lower status. Messere is the proper way to address someone of higher status.
    • In the first game, "Ser" is a gender-neutral title for a Ferelden knight. At one point in the game a servant addresses The Warden as "ser", so it may also be a general term of respect.

Fan Works

  • Undocumented Features uses "Kahm" and "Darth" as titles for female and male Sith respectively. However, there's a certain amount of playing with the trope here, as it turns out both were actually the given names of the oldest known Dark-side Force users in history, and have been misconstrued as titles by later Sith followers for thousands of years. (This is probably a nod to the inconsistent use of "Darth" in the original Star Wars -- see the note in the example for those films below.)


  • Star Wars gave us the Grand Moffs, military governors over vast regions of galactic space, and the Darths, the title held by Sith Lords. Also Padawan, the title of a Jedi apprentice. (However, in Episode IV, Obi-Wan clearly uses "Darth" as a given name several times, employing it in ways and at times where it would be clumsy or inappropriate were it a title; it appears that its use as an honorific is a Retcon of sorts.)


  • The final installment of the Uglies series qualifies. Scott Westerfeld based the honorifics on traditional Japanese suffixes (-sensei, -san, -chan) except he uses them to indicate the "face rank" or fame of the individual to which they are applied.
  • The Inheritance Cycle had honorifics in the Ancient language that came after a person's name, such as -elda, -finiarel, -svitkona, and the like.
  • 'Sai' in The Dark Tower serves as both sir/ma'am and Mr./Mrs.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, "Vor" is a prefix denoting a family belonging to the Barrayan hereditary military caste. Aristocracy by any other name ...
    • Also the Cetagandan haut-lords and ghem-soldiers.
  • The Rod Albright Alien Adventures has Tar Gibbons, the alien equivalent of an Old Master. As he explains, the term Tar is an honorific, meaning approximately "Wise and beloved master who could kill me with his little finger if he so wished."
  • In the last book of the Mage Storms trilogy, the Eastern Empire uses "Siara" as a default I-don't-know-your-proper-honorific.
  • The Keys to The Kingdom has a few of these.
  • The Long Price Quartet has a number of fake Japanese-style honorifics.
  • M. is used for all adult humans in the Hyperion Cantos. Androids are adressed as A.
    • Also by Dan Simmmons, the honorific used for old-style humans in Illium and Olympos is "Uhr", and it follows the name rather than precedes it.
  • In The Blue Sword, the native Damarians use sola for men and sol for women; the heroine, Angharad "Harry" Crewe, is dubbed "Harimad-sol" as an Affectionate Nickname and mark of respect.
  • "Brightness" and "Brightlord" from The Stormlight Archive, referencing the lighteyes most redeeming feature (and the light-based magic of the setting).
  • C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner series has several of these:
    • nand- / nandi : very formal.
    • nadi : less formal.
    • -ji : familiar.
  • The Dune series of books has the military rank of Bashar, roughly equivilant to some sort of General, used by various different military forces over the course of the books.
  • In the Wheel of Time series Aes Sedai always have "Sedai" fixed onto the ends of their names after being raised to the shawl, since "Aes Sedai" roughly translates to "Servants Of All" the honorfic most likely translate to "Moraine The Servant" or something similar.
  • The the World of Warcraft novel Cycle of Hatred, the Guardians of Tirisfal are refered to by the honorific "Magna", Jaina insits no using to refer to Aegwynn despite the later's protests.
  • Marie Brennan's Doppelganger series has sixteen different honorifics for the various classes of witches in the story. "Katsu" is a generic term; the others are based on a witch's rank and area of specialization.
  • In the New Jedi Order, there are several examples among the Yuuzhan Vong, notably "Fearsome One" (used for high-ranking members of the warrior caste such as the Warmaster and his Supreme Commanders), "Eminence" (for priests) and "Dread Lord" (for the Supreme Overlord). The prefix "Yun-" is also added to the names of deities, though it's never used for mortal characters.
  • The original Planet of the Apes novel had a mention of "Mai" as an honorific-Uylsses uses it on Zaius when he's trying to learn the language. It's not in the movies, though.
  • In Tamora Pierce's The Circle Opens quartet, every new country the characters visit has its own system of Fantastic Honorifics, with variations appropriate to each culture. All of them seem to have a special honorific for mages, which is usually gender-neutral, even when no gender-neutral honorifics are used for non-mages.
  • In Diane Duane's Young Wizards series, wizards are formally addressed as "Emissary", presumably in reference to their status as mortal agents of the divine Powers That Be. It is traditional for wizards to address each other as "cousin" and any of the aforementioned Powers that they might speak to personally as "elder sister/brother".
  • In Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul, "T'Kehr", a Vulcan honorific for learned scientists or philosophers in positions of leadership.

Live-Action TV

  • Babylon 5 has the Minbari title of "Satai", for members of their inner governing circle, the Grey Council.
  • The Doctor Who serial "The Caves of Andrizoni" has "Trau" (Mr) and "Krau" (Ms). This was later taken up by the Virgin New Adventures set in the future.

Video Games

  • In addition to the "ser" system detailed above, in Dragon Age the Dalish elves also appear to have a complex system of honorifics. As do the Qunari.
  • In the Green-Sky Trilogy, the Ol-Zhaan, an elite caste of priests, rulers, and judges, are addressed as "D'ol" (corrupted from "Doctor," we find out later)

Web Comics

  • In Drowtales, the prefixes Val and Vel. When saying a noble's full name, used in front of the last name (e.g., Ariel Val'Sarghress), whereas when addressing the titleholder directly, used in front of the first name (e.g., Val'Ariel).
  • In Erfworld, when Lord Stanley is called a "tool" by Parson, he declares that "Tool" will be his title from now on, because he didn't realize it was an insult.