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Sir

Sir

Overview
Sir is an honorific
Honorific
An honorific is a word or expression with connotations conveying esteem or respect when used in addressing or referring to a person. Sometimes, the term is used not quite correctly to refer to an honorary title...

 used as a title (see Knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

), or as a courtesy title
Courtesy title
A courtesy title is a form of address in systems of nobility used for children, former wives and other close relatives of a peer. These styles are used 'by courtesy' in the sense that the relatives do not themselves hold substantive titles...

 to address a man without using his given or family name
Family name
A family name is a type of surname and part of a person's name indicating the family to which the person belongs. The use of family names is widespread in cultures around the world...

 in many English speaking cultures. It is often used in formal correspondence (Dear Sir, Right Reverend Sir).

The term is often reserved for use only towards equals, one of superior rank
Command hierarchy
A command hierarchy is a group of people committed to carrying out orders "from the top", that is, of authority. It is part of a power structure: usually seen as the most vulnerable and also the most powerful part of it.-Sociology:...

 or status
Social status
In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

, such as an educator or commanding officer
Commanding officer
The commanding officer is the officer in command of a military unit. Typically, the commanding officer has ultimate authority over the unit, and is usually given wide latitude to run the unit as he sees fit, within the bounds of military law...

, an elder (especially by a minor), or as a form of address from a merchant to a customer.

Equivalent terms of address are "ma'am" or "madam
Madam
Madam, or madame, is a polite title used for women which, in English, is the equivalent of Mrs. or Ms., and is often found abbreviated as "ma'am", and less frequently as "ma'm". It is derived from the French madame, which means "my lady", the feminine form of lord; the plural of ma dame in this...

" in most cases, or in the case of a very young woman, girl, or unmarried woman who prefers to be addressed as such, "miss".
Discussion
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Timeline

1532   Sir Thomas More resigns as Lord Chancellor of England.

1535   Sir Thomas More is executed for treason against King Henry VIII of England.

1579   Sir Francis Drake claims a land he calls ''Nova Albion'' (modern California) for England.

1580   Sir Francis Drake finishes his circumnavigation of the Earth.

1894   The Manchester Ship Canal in England is officially opened by Queen Victoria, who knights its designer Sir Edward Leader Williams.

1950   Sir Thomas Blamey becomes the only Australian-born Field Marshal in Australian history.

 
Encyclopedia
Sir is an honorific
Honorific
An honorific is a word or expression with connotations conveying esteem or respect when used in addressing or referring to a person. Sometimes, the term is used not quite correctly to refer to an honorary title...

 used as a title (see Knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

), or as a courtesy title
Courtesy title
A courtesy title is a form of address in systems of nobility used for children, former wives and other close relatives of a peer. These styles are used 'by courtesy' in the sense that the relatives do not themselves hold substantive titles...

 to address a man without using his given or family name
Family name
A family name is a type of surname and part of a person's name indicating the family to which the person belongs. The use of family names is widespread in cultures around the world...

 in many English speaking cultures. It is often used in formal correspondence (Dear Sir, Right Reverend Sir).

The term is often reserved for use only towards equals, one of superior rank
Command hierarchy
A command hierarchy is a group of people committed to carrying out orders "from the top", that is, of authority. It is part of a power structure: usually seen as the most vulnerable and also the most powerful part of it.-Sociology:...

 or status
Social status
In sociology or anthropology, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society . It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group, for example son or daughter, playmate, pupil, etc....

, such as an educator or commanding officer
Commanding officer
The commanding officer is the officer in command of a military unit. Typically, the commanding officer has ultimate authority over the unit, and is usually given wide latitude to run the unit as he sees fit, within the bounds of military law...

, an elder (especially by a minor), or as a form of address from a merchant to a customer.

Equivalent terms of address are "ma'am" or "madam
Madam
Madam, or madame, is a polite title used for women which, in English, is the equivalent of Mrs. or Ms., and is often found abbreviated as "ma'am", and less frequently as "ma'm". It is derived from the French madame, which means "my lady", the feminine form of lord; the plural of ma dame in this...

" in most cases, or in the case of a very young woman, girl, or unmarried woman who prefers to be addressed as such, "miss". The equivalent term for a knighted woman is Dame
Dame (title)
The title of Dame is the female equivalent of the honour of knighthood in the British honours system . It is also the equivalent form address to 'Sir' for a knight...

, or "Lady
Lady
The word lady is a polite term for a woman, specifically the female equivalent to, or spouse of, a lord or gentleman, and in many contexts a term for any adult woman...

" for the wife of a knight.

Origin


Sir derives from the Middle French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 honorific title sire (messire gave 'mylord'), from the Old French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 sieur (itself a contraction of Seigneur meaning 'lord'), from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 adjective senior (elder), which yielded titles of respect in many European languages.
The form sir is first documented in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 in 1297, as title of honor of a knight or baronet
Baronet
A baronet or the rare female equivalent, a baronetess , is the holder of a hereditary baronetcy awarded by the British Crown...

, being a variant of sire
Sire
Sire may refer to:* Father, the counterpart of a dam, particularly in animal breeding. See also stallion* James W. Sire, author on worldviews* Sire Records, a record label* Sire Advertising, an advertising agency...

, which was already used in English since at least c.1205 as a title placed before a name and denoting knighthood, and to address the (male) Sovereign since c.1225, with additional general senses of "father, male parent" is from c.1250 and "important elderly man" from 1362.

Formal styling


In formal protocol Sir is the correct styling
Style (manner of address)
A style of office, or honorific, is a legal, official, or recognized title. A style, by tradition or law, precedes a reference to a person who holds a post or political office, and is sometimes used to refer to the office itself. An honorific can also be awarded to an individual in a personal...

 for a knight or a baronet (the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 nobiliary rank just below all peers of the realm
Peerage
The Peerage is a legal system of largely hereditary titles in the United Kingdom, which constitute the ranks of British nobility and is part of the British honours system...

), used with (one of) the knight's given name
Given name
A given name, in Western contexts often referred to as a first name, is a personal name that specifies and differentiates between members of a group of individuals, especially in a family, all of whose members usually share the same family name...

(s) or full name, but not with the surname
Family name
A family name is a type of surname and part of a person's name indicating the family to which the person belongs. The use of family names is widespread in cultures around the world...

 alone ("Sir James Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, Hon RAM, FRCM is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings , McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the "most successful musician and composer in popular music history", with 60 gold discs and sales of 100...

", "Sir Paul McCartney", or "Sir Paul", but never "Sir McCartney"). The equivalent for a woman is Dame
Dame (title)
The title of Dame is the female equivalent of the honour of knighthood in the British honours system . It is also the equivalent form address to 'Sir' for a knight...

, that is, for one who holds the title in her own right; for such women, the title "Dame" is used as "Sir" for a man, that is, never before the surname on its own. This usage was devised in 1917, derived from the practice, up to the 17th century (and still also in legal proceedings), for the wife of a knight. The wife of a knight or baronet now, however, is styled "Lady
Lady
The word lady is a polite term for a woman, specifically the female equivalent to, or spouse of, a lord or gentleman, and in many contexts a term for any adult woman...

 [Surname]" (e.g. "Lady McCartney", but never "Lady Linda McCartney," which is reserved for the daughter of a duke, marquess or earl, or now, more recently, for a female member of the Orders of the Garter and the Thistle who possesses no higher title).

In the UK and in certain Commonwealth realms (where the British monarch directly reigns), the following honours permit (in the case of three currently dormant honours, permitted) male subjects of those realms to use the prefix Sir :

United Kingdom and Commonwealth

  • Baronet
    Baronet
    A baronet or the rare female equivalent, a baronetess , is the holder of a hereditary baronetcy awarded by the British Crown...

     (Bt.) (not conferred since 1990)
  • Knight of the Order of the Garter
    Order of the Garter
    The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

     (KG)
  • Knight of the Order of the Thistle
    Order of the Thistle
    The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle is an order of chivalry associated with Scotland. The current version of the Order was founded in 1687 by King James VII of Scotland who asserted that he was reviving an earlier Order...

     (KT)
  • Knight Commander or Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
    Order of the Bath
    The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate mediæval ceremony for creating a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as Knights of the Bath...

     (KCB/GCB)
  • Knight Commander or Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
    Order of St Michael and St George
    The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

     (KCMG/GCMG)
  • Knight Commander or Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
    Royal Victorian Order
    The Royal Victorian Order is a dynastic order of knighthood and a house order of chivalry recognising distinguished personal service to the order's Sovereign, the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth realms, any members of her family, or any of her viceroys...

     (KCVO/GCVO)
  • Knight Commander or Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire
    Order of the British Empire
    The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

     (KBE/GBE)
  • Knight Bachelor
    Knight Bachelor
    The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

     (Kt.)

Antigua and Barbuda

  • Knight of the Order of the National Hero (KNH)
  • Knight Commander, Knight Grand Cross, or Knight Grand Collar of the Order of the Nation (KCN/KGCN/KGN)

Australia

  • Knight of the Order of Australia
    Order of Australia
    The Order of Australia is an order of chivalry established on 14 February 1975 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, "for the purpose of according recognition to Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or for meritorious service"...

     (AK; for male subjects of Australia only. Not awarded since 1986)

Barbados

  • Knight of St. Andrew
    Knight or Dame of St. Andrew (Barbados)
    The Knight or Dame of St. Andrew is an award within the Order of Barbados.The Order of Barbados was instituted by Letters Patent on July 25, 1980, as part of the Barbados National Honours and Decorations System. The Knight or Dame of St...

     of the Order of Barbados
    Order of Barbados
    The Order of Barbados is part of the National honours system awarded by the government of Barbados, and presented by the Viceroy, which is the Governor-General of Barbados. It comprises four classes, two of which are awarded in two grades. It was instituted under Royal letters patent of Queen...

     (KA)

New Zealand

  • Knight Companion or Knight Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit
    New Zealand Order of Merit
    The New Zealand Order of Merit is an order established in 1996 "for those persons who in any field of endeavour, have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions or other merits."The order includes five...

     (KNZM/GNZM)

Dormant honours


Three currently dormant honours - the Order of St. Patrick
Order of St. Patrick
The Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick is a British order of chivalry associated with Ireland. The Order was created in 1783 by George III. The regular creation of knights of Saint Patrick lasted until 1921, when most of Ireland became independent as the Irish Free State...

, the Order of the Star of India
Order of the Star of India
The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1861. The Order includes members of three classes:# Knight Grand Commander # Knight Commander # Companion...

 and the Order of the Indian Empire
Order of the Indian Empire
The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1878. The Order includes members of three classes:#Knight Grand Commander #Knight Commander #Companion...

 - permitted male subjects of the UK and Commonwealth realms to use the prefix Sir.

Kingdom of Ireland

  • Knight of the Order of St. Patrick
    Order of St. Patrick
    The Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick is a British order of chivalry associated with Ireland. The Order was created in 1783 by George III. The regular creation of knights of Saint Patrick lasted until 1921, when most of Ireland became independent as the Irish Free State...

     (KP)


Established in 1783 and primarily awarded to men associated with the Kingdom of Ireland
Kingdom of Ireland
The Kingdom of Ireland refers to the country of Ireland in the period between the proclamation of Henry VIII as King of Ireland by the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 and the Act of Union in 1800. It replaced the Lordship of Ireland, which had been created in 1171...

. Regular creation of new knights of the order ended in 1921 upon the formation of the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

. With the death of the last knight in 1974, the Order became dormant.

British Raj

  • Knight Commander or Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India
    Order of the Star of India
    The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1861. The Order includes members of three classes:# Knight Grand Commander # Knight Commander # Companion...

     (KCSI/GCSI)
  • Knight Commander or Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire
    Order of the Indian Empire
    The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire is an order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1878. The Order includes members of three classes:#Knight Grand Commander #Knight Commander #Companion...

     (KCIE/GCIE)


As part of the British Empire's consolidation of their rule in India, the Order of the Star of India was established in 1861 to reward prominent British and Indian civil servants and military officers and prominent Indians associated with the Indian Empire. The Order of the Indian Empire was established in 1878 as a junior-level order to accompany the Order of the Star of India. The last creations of knights of either order were made on 15 August 1947 upon Indian independence. Both orders, and the use of their formal styling, became officially obsolete in India in 1950 upon the country becoming a republic within the Commonwealth, followed by Pakistan in 1956. The Order of the Star of India became dormant in the Commonwealth realms from February 2009, and the Order of the Indian Empire after August 2010, when the last knights of the orders died.

Combinations with other titles and styles


In the case of a military officer who is also a knight, the appropriate form of address puts the professional military rank first, then the correct manner of address for the individual, then his name, e.g.,
  • Admiral of the Fleet Sir Bruce Fraser
    Bruce Fraser, 1st Baron Fraser of North Cape
    Admiral of the Fleet Bruce Austin Fraser, 1st Baron Fraser of North Cape GCB, KBE was a senior British admiral during World War II.-Early naval career:Fraser joined the Royal Navy as a Cadet on 15 January 1904...

    , GCB, KBE (after 1941)
  • Field Marshal
    Field Marshal (Australia)
    Field Marshal is the highest rank of the Australian Army and was created as a direct equivalent of the British military rank of field marshal. A five-star rank, the equivalent ranks in the other armed services are Admiral of the Fleet and Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force...

     Sir Thomas Blamey
    Thomas Blamey
    Field Marshal Sir Thomas Albert Blamey GBE, KCB, CMG, DSO, ED was an Australian general of the First and Second World Wars, and the only Australian to date to attain the rank of field marshal....

    , GBE, KCB, CMG, DSO, ED
    Efficiency Decoration
    The Efficiency Decoration is a defunct medal of Britain and the Commonwealth awarded for long service in the Territorial Army of the UK, the Indian Volunteer Forces and Colonial Auxiliary Forces....

     (after 1941)


This is also the case with academic titles such as professor:
  • Professor
    Professor
    A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

     Sir Patrick Bateson
    Patrick Bateson
    Sir Patrick Bateson, FRS is an English biologist and science writer. Bateson is emeritus professor of ethology at Cambridge University and president of the Zoological Society of London since 2004....

    , FRS


However, the title 'Doctor' is not used in combination with 'Sir': the knighthood takes precedence, and knighted doctors are addressed as knights, though they may still use any postnominal letters associated with their degrees.

With regard to British knighthood, a person who is not a citizen of a Commonwealth realm
Commonwealth Realm
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations that has Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. The sixteen current realms have a combined land area of 18.8 million km² , and a population of 134 million, of which all, except about two million, live in the six...

 who receives an honorary knighthood is entitled to use any postnominal letters associated with the knighthood, but not the title "Sir". A similar convention applies to Church of England clergy who receive knighthoods, for example:
  • The Reverend Dr John Polkinghorne
    John Polkinghorne
    John Charlton Polkinghorne KBE FRS is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, writer, and Anglican priest. He was professor of Mathematical physics at the University of Cambridge from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned his chair to study for the priesthood, becoming an ordained Anglican priest...

    , KBE
    Order of the British Empire
    The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

    , FRS


Clergy in other denominations may use different conventions.

Dual national
Multiple citizenship
Multiple citizenship is a status in which a person is concurrently regarded as a citizen under the laws of more than one state. Multiple citizenships exist because different countries use different, and not necessarily mutually exclusive, citizenship requirements...

s holding a Commonwealth citizenship that recognise the British monarch
Monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

 as head of state are entitled to use the styling. Common usage varies from country to country: for instance, dual Bahamian-American citizen Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier
Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE is a Bahamian American actor, film director, author, and diplomat.In 1963, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field...

, knighted in 1974, is often styled "Sir Sidney Poitier", particularly in connection with his official ambassador
Ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

ial duties, although he himself rarely employs the title.

Especially in North America, the style "Sir" is frequently employed by Knights of the Order of Malta and the Knights of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre
Order of the Holy Sepulchre
The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is a Roman Catholic order of knighthood under the protection of the pope. It traces its roots to Duke Godfrey of Bouillon, principal leader of the First Crusade...

 (female members of these order are styled as Dame
Dame
A Dame may be:* Dame , a female title of rank, equivalent to 'Sir' used as the title of a knight* A title of respect for certain Benedictine nuns equivalent to the male "Dom"* A pantomime dame...

 or Lady
Lady
The word lady is a polite term for a woman, specifically the female equivalent to, or spouse of, a lord or gentleman, and in many contexts a term for any adult woman...

).

Use in disciplined services


The common use of Sir instead of the rank specific address for a senior officer in a military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

, police
Police
The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

 or other hierarchical organisation is rather specific to English and, in some instances, French (Canada). In most languages, no such general address is considered respectful, or the two are combined, as in German Herr followed by the rank.

It is common in British tabloid newspaper slang
Slang
Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo...

 as a shorthand for 'schoolteacher': Sir's sex shame. Usage of "sir" commonly appears in schools in portions of the Southern United States
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

.

When addressing a male superior (e.g. Officer or Warrant Officer
Warrant Officer
A warrant officer is an officer in a military organization who is designated an officer by a warrant, as distinguished from a commissioned officer who is designated an officer by a commission, or from non-commissioned officer who is designated an officer by virtue of seniority.The rank was first...

, but not usually a non-commissioned officer
Non-commissioned officer
A non-commissioned officer , called a sub-officer in some countries, is a military officer who has not been given a commission...

, in the military), "sir" is used to replace his specific rank.
(Despite its use in many fictional works, this is not a term used for female superiors, who are addressed as " ma'am
Madam
Madam, or madame, is a polite title used for women which, in English, is the equivalent of Mrs. or Ms., and is often found abbreviated as "ma'am", and less frequently as "ma'm". It is derived from the French madame, which means "my lady", the feminine form of lord; the plural of ma dame in this...

"). However, recruits of the United States Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 and United States Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

 address both male commissioned and non-commissioned officers as "sir" in basic training
Basic Training
Basic Training may refer to:* Basic Training, a 1971 American documentary directed by Frederick Wiseman* Basic Training , an American sex comedy* Recruit training...

, especially drill instructors (USMC) and company commanders (USCG). Enlisted members of the United States Military always address Commissioned Officers as "sir." During training "sir" is implied and will be replaced by the rank and grade of those addressed after initial indoctrination.

Possibly the shortness of the word helps explain another idiomatic but non-official practice in American English: emphatically saying Sir both before and after an obedient response to the senior, especially during drill, e.g., "Sir, yes, sir!" This is practiced by the US Coast Guard recruits.

In both the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 and British Armed Forces
British Armed Forces
The British Armed Forces are the armed forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.Also known as Her Majesty's Armed Forces and sometimes legally the Armed Forces of the Crown, the British Armed Forces encompasses three professional uniformed services, the Royal Navy, the...

, addressing an NCO
Non-commissioned officer
A non-commissioned officer , called a sub-officer in some countries, is a military officer who has not been given a commission...

 as "Sir" is incorrect. In the British Army, however, an NCO is referred to as "sir" when he is on parade and warrant officer
Warrant Officer
A warrant officer is an officer in a military organization who is designated an officer by a warrant, as distinguished from a commissioned officer who is designated an officer by a commission, or from non-commissioned officer who is designated an officer by virtue of seniority.The rank was first...

s are addressed as "Sir."

In the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police , literally ‘Royal Gendarmerie of Canada’; colloquially known as The Mounties, and internally as ‘The Force’) is the national police force of Canada, and one of the most recognized of its kind in the world. It is unique in the world as a national, federal,...

, only commissioned officers are addressed as "sir"; NCOs and constables are addressed by their rank. British police officers of the rank of Inspector
Inspector
Inspector is both a police rank and an administrative position, both used in a number of contexts. However, it is not an equivalent rank in each police force.- Australia :...

 or above are addressed as "Sir," the more familiar form of address as "Boss", "Gaffer" or "Guv" (short for "governor") being largely inventions of popular TV and cinema.

Miscellaneous


  • Until the 17th century it was also a title of priests (the related word monsignor
    Monsignor
    Monsignor, pl. monsignori, is the form of address for those members of the clergy of the Catholic Church holding certain ecclesiastical honorific titles. Monsignor is the apocopic form of the Italian monsignore, from the French mon seigneur, meaning "my lord"...

    , from French monseigneur, is still used for Catholic prelates). In Icelandic
    Icelandic language
    Icelandic is a North Germanic language, the main language of Iceland. Its closest relative is Faroese.Icelandic is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic or Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages prior to the...

    , the cognate word séra is used exclusively to address a priest, together with his first name: a priest called Jón Jónsson will be addressed as séra Jón and referred to as presturinn séra Jón Jónsson ("the priest, séra Jón Jónsson").
  • Various persons in authority, e.g. District Judges in the United Kingdom, are also addressed as "sir".
  • Sirrah was a 16th century derivative that implied the inferiority of the addressee.
  • The informal forms sirree and siree are merely devised for emphasis in speech, mainly after Yes or No.
  • Not to be confused with the now exclusively monarchical (i.e. royal) Sire
    Sire
    Sire may refer to:* Father, the counterpart of a dam, particularly in animal breeding. See also stallion* James W. Sire, author on worldviews* Sire Records, a record label* Sire Advertising, an advertising agency...

    , even though this has the same etymological root.
  • Sir and various Indianized variants such as Sirjee (sir with jee, an Indian honorific) are rather commonly used in Indian English
    Indian English
    Indian English is an umbrella term used to describe dialects of the English language spoken primarily in the Republic of India.As a result of British colonial rule until Indian independence in 1947 English is an official language of India and is widely used in both spoken and literary contexts...

     and even vernacular languages. Another Indian extension is using Sir after the name, such as Gandhi Sir.
  • U.S. President George W. Bush
    George W. Bush
    George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

    became notably upset when a reporter called him 'sir', rather than 'Mr President'. President Bush drew gasps at the Vatican by referring to Pope Benedict XVI as 'sir' instead of the expected 'His Holiness'.

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