I'm writing a novel in which Latin-speaking students at Oxford in 1560's are talking. In English, they'd be referring respectfully to gentlemen who weren't noblemen as "master," and noblemen as "lord." If I use Dominus (Domine in direct address) as "Mister" or "master," what would "lord" be when they run into an actual nobleman? (I'm writing it in English, but I'm throwing in a few foreign words for color.)

I'll appreciate any help you can give.


  • Here's a related question that doesn't address how to distinguish specifically between a "lord" and a "mister."
    – brianpck
    May 1, 2017 at 18:43
  • Both mister and master come from magister, while dominus means lord. Why not use magister? There is also Medieval Latin domnus as a short form of dominus, abbreviated dnus. (that was used pretty much the same way as today's mister, Mr. at some point in history).
    – Rafael
    May 2, 2017 at 12:05

2 Answers 2


Latin doesn't really allow for the social distinctions that we make in English. Modern translators are obliged to deal with (indeed, to agonise over) this very problem, for which there seems to be no perfect, or even an agreed solution. It's the same for other modes of address. As long as there is consistency and no ambiguity, the choice is that of the translator, which seldom seems to be criticised.

Peter Needham, in his Latin versions of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter stories, uses Dominus and Domina for Mr. and Mrs. Dursley. At Hogwarts, the staff are variously professor, magister, magistra and so on, while Harry is himself formally addressed as Domine Potter. All Needham's usages are well thought out and quite acceptable.

In Superbia et Odium I myself used honestus and honestior to indicate the different social classes of, say, Mr. Bennett (a country squire) and Mr. Darcy (a wealthy man with a position in society). Mrs. Bennett is matrona, which allowed dominus and domina to be reserved for members of the aristocracy. For a knight of the realm I used senior, but if it is necessary to address a man as 'Sir', then O mi Bone, Bone Vir or Optime Vir indicate different levels of familiarity or respect.

I can't think that you have any need to strain for an accuracy that may not be genuinely attainable — just use whatever seems to fit comfortably with the social and professional situations of the speakers, allow the context to help you where appropriate (e.g. to choose beteween magister and dominus) and try always to be consistent.

  • 1
    +1 for the examples, but I think the question being set in the XVI century allows for the existence of an actual true answer (whether we have the means to actually reach it is another question: probably a historian would be closer than me to it). It is not unlikely that the distinction Mr/Mylord actually existed at the time AND it had an accepted (late) Latin counterpart
    – Rafael
    May 2, 2017 at 15:15
  • 2
    @Rafael I guess that the actual Latin titles of the English nobility might be obtained from the College of Heralds, but the manner in which they would have been addressed in speech may, as you say, be beyond reach. It doesn't seem very likely to me that any documentary evidence of it will have survived. Optime Vir to a Roman would show sufficient respect to high rank, but to me doesn't quite sound plausible in the questioner's context.
    – Tom Cotton
    May 2, 2017 at 15:40
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    It might be worth some research, though. E.g. the scope and extent of the use of Domnus. I've seen often used the abbreviation "Dnus. Dr.".
    – Rafael
    May 2, 2017 at 16:34
  • In the 16th century the law in England was written in Latin and a combination of French and English. If you look at the reports of decisions published by the Selden Society you might find an answer to this question, since the judges in identifying the parties would use formal descriptive forms.
    – user26732
    Aug 14, 2017 at 17:37

Look up for "procer, proceris". Maybe that will do.

Edit: Some definitions and examples can be found in English, French or Latin.

I'm not sure about it being used as a form of address though.

E.g.: Agnosco procerem, Juv. 8, 26.

  • 2
    Here are some dictionary definitions. Do you have any info on whether procer was used as a term of address?
    – Ben Kovitz
    May 2, 2017 at 5:34
  • 1
    Welcome to the site, riekes! The word might indeed be good, but it would be better to explain it more. Can you tell what it means, or even better, give some use examples? If you can find a passage where it is used in the way the original poster (OP) wants, this would be a great answer!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 2, 2017 at 5:42
  • 2
    There is another page with more information here. I'm commenting it because I still can't put more than 2 links on an answer.
    – riekes
    May 2, 2017 at 6:26

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