Doctor means teacher in Latin. It has been
used continuously as an honored academic title for over a millennium
in Europe, where it dates back to the rise of the university.
This use spread to the Americas, former European colonies, and
is now prevalent in most of the world. As a prefix - "Dr" -
its primary designation is a person who has obtained a doctorate
- that is, an advanced university degree whose completion involves
However, in the last two centuries of popular
use in English-speaking and many other countries, the noun doctor
has come to be used widely to refer to physicians (medical doctors),
who are also granted use of the prefix as a courtesy title,
whether or not they hold doctorates. The primary medical qualification
in the UK and in many Commonwealth Countries is the degree of
'Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery' (MB BS, MB ChB,
BM BCh or MB BChir, depending on the University granting the
award). After qualification, medical practitioners may then
read for the postgraduate research degree of 'Doctor of Medicine'.
Medical usage of the noun doctor
In United States and Canadian parlance, the
noun doctor is most often used for all forms of physicians and
surgeons, including internists, pediatricians, gynecologists,
and all other surgical and nonsurgical specialists who hold
M.D. degrees and practice medicine of any form. It is also used
in this sense for osteopathic physicians (whose medical degree
is D.O.). In a specific context or setting that does not include
physicians, doctor is sometimes used as a noun to refer to a
chiropractor, veterinarian, dentist, optometrist, podiatrist,
pharmacist, or clinical psychologist (whose degrees are usually
D.C., D.V.M., D.D.S., O.D., D.P.M., PharmD, Ph.D.), though less
often in a context which includes physicians.
In the United Kingdom, Australia, and other
areas whose culture was more recently linked to the United Kingdom,
within medical circles the title Doctor generally applies to
medically qualified individuals. However, those who are Members
or Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons for historic reasons
prefer to be addressed as Mr, Mrs, Ms or Miss.
There are many other countries, such as France,
where doctor nearly always is synonymous with medical doctor.
Academic doctorates and usage of Doctor as
a title of address
Although medical doctors and some other health
professionals with the above medical degrees are addressed as
Doctor (e.g., Doctor Smith or Dr Smith), medical degrees are
not usually doctorates, except in the USA, where they are considered
first-professional (as opposed to research-oriented) doctorates.
The most advanced academic degrees in any discipline,
including the medical disciplines, are referred to as doctorates
and represent the highest earned degree in a given area of the
sciences or humanities. The most common of these is the Ph.D.,
but there are many other research-oriented doctorates with different
designations. (See: doctorate.) In much of the world, holders
of doctoral degrees are generally addressed as Doctor. In the
USA, however, while the Juris Doctor or J.D. is indeed a professional
doctorate, by custom and legal convention lawyers do not use
the title of doctor. Lawyers who hold another doctorate such
as the J.S.D. (Doctor of Juristic Science), L.Sc.D. (Doctor
of the Science of Law), Th.D. (Doctor of Theology, or the LL.D.
(Doctor of Laws) may use the title of doctor. In an academic
setting, where the educational background of the individual
is of course salient, doctor is the term of address and title
used by holders of a doctoral degree; however, the rank of professor
often takes precedence and may be used as a title. Academics
below the rank of professor who do not hold a doctoral degree
are referred to as Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms.
It is also true, however, that the usage of
doctor as a title also varies by country and culture. While
the title Doctor (abbreviated Dr) is used in the United States,
the UK and Germany for most people holding a doctorate, in some
other countries, such as France, it is generally not used except
for physicians and thus has become a synonym for "physician".
In certain countries, for members of certain professions, the
title of doctor may be used even when the academic qualification
of doctorate is not held: for instance, in Italy, for holders
of a Laurea.
- In Roman Catholicism, a Doctor of the
Church is an eminent theologian (e.g. Thomas Aquinas) from
whose teachings the whole Christian Church is held to have
derived great advantage. This is not an academic title but
reflects the most ancient sense of the word as "teacher".
"Doctor" is an undressing game
played by children.
A Doctor blade is a knife blade pressed
to a moving surface to smoothen the surface or remove an
unwanted substance from the surface. Doctor blades are often
used in industrial processes.
"Doctors" is a UK daytime soap
The Doctor is the name of the main character
in Doctor Who.