The prefix The Honourable or The Honorable (abbreviated to The Hon., Hon. or formerly The Hon'ble—the latter term is still used in South Asia) is a style that is used before the names of certain classes of people. It is considered to be an honorific styling.
In international diplomatic relations, representatives of foreign states are often addressed as "The Honourable". Deputy chiefs of mission, chargés d'affaires, consuls-general and consuls are always given the style. All heads of consular posts, whether they are honorary or career postholders, are accorded the title according to the State Department of the United States. However, ambassadors and high commissioners are never given the style, with the title "Your Excellency" being used.
In May 2013, the style was given approval by the Queen to be granted to the Governor-General of Australia, both retrospectively and for current and future holders of the office, to be used in the form "His/Her Excellency the Honourable" while holding office and as "the Honourable" in retirement.
As of December 2014, the practice of appointing the vice-regal office holder, as well as former living, the style The Honourable for life has been also adopted for the state governors of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania (where it only applied to the current governor and future governors) as well as the Administrator of the Northern Territory..
In Australia, all ministers in Commonwealth and state governments and the government of the Northern Territory are entitled to be styled the Honourable. The Australian Capital Territory does not have an executive council and so its ministers are not entitled to the style. In Victoria, the style is granted for life, so it is customary for former ministers to retain the title after leaving office. In New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania the premiers can advise the Queen of Australia to grant former ministers the style for life. In the Northern Territory, the chief minister can request the administrator to make a recommendation to the governor-general who in turn makes a recommendation to the Queen. A minimum five years' service as a member of the executive council and/or as a presiding officer is a prerequisite. In Western Australia, conditional on royal assent, the title may become permanent after three years' service in the ministry. All such awards are published in the Commonwealth Government Gazette. The presiding officers of the parliaments of the Commonwealth, the states and the Northern Territory are also styled the Honourable, but normally only during their tenure of office. Special permission is sometimes given for a former presiding officer to retain the style after leaving office, as is the case in the Northern Territory.
The style "Honourable" is not acquired through membership of either the House of Representatives or the Senate (see Parliament of Australia). A member or senator may have the style if they have acquired it separately, e.g. by being a current or former minister. During proceedings within the chambers, forms such as "the honourable Member for ...", "the honourable the Leader of the Opposition", or "My honourable colleague" are used. This is a parliamentary courtesy and does not imply any right to the style.
Traditionally, members of the legislative councils of the states have been styled the Honourable for the duration of their terms. This practice is still followed in New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. In Victoria the practice was abolished in 2003.
Judges of all superior courts are also referred to formally by the style the Honourable, both during and after holding the office.
In People's Republic of Bangladesh, ministers and members of parliaments are entitled to the style "Honorable". On the other hand, the prime minister and the president are styled "The Honorable" or "His/Her Excellency".
In Barbados, members of the Parliament carry two main titles: members of the House of Assembly are styled "The Honourable", while members of the Senate are styled "Senator". Persons appointed to Her Majesty's Privy Council in London are styled "The Right Honourable". Persons accorded with the Order of Barbados are styled "Sir" (male), or "Dame" (female) as a Knight or Dame of St Andrew; or "The Honourable" as Companion of Honour. Persons made a National Hero of Barbados are styled "The Right Excellent".
In Puerto Rico, much like the continental United States, the term "Honorable" (in Spanish) is used, but not required by law, to address Puerto Rican governors as well as city mayors, members of state and municipal legislatures, judges and property registrars, as well as when formally addressing the President of the United States, of which Puerto Rico is a territory.
In Canada, while not enshrined in any legislation, the style of address in common use allows individuals to refer to themselves and each of as The Honourable (French: l'honorable). Those who can do this for life include:
The Governor General may grant permission to retain the title after they cease to hold office. Persons eligible to retain the title include the Speaker of the House of Commons (if not made a privy councillor already), territorial commissioners, and judges of certain courts.
It is usual for speakers of the House of Commons to be made privy councillors, in which case they keep the style for life. Also, provincial premiers and federal opposition leaders are sometimes made privy councillors.
Members of the House of Commons of Canada and of provincial legislatures refer to each other during proceedings of the house as "honourable members" (or l'honorable député) but are not permitted by the social custom to have the Honourable as a prefix in front of their name unless they are privy councillors.
Current and former governors general, prime ministers, chief justices and certain other eminent persons generally use the style the Right Honourable for life (or le/la très honorable in French). This is subject to being summoned to the privy council who upon their appointment are styled "The Right Honourable". Several prime ministers were not summoned to the privy council and hence were styled "The Honourable", these were Alexander Mackenzie, Sir John Abbott and Sir Mackenzie Bowell.
Since 2009, former members of the Executive Council of Nova Scotia retain "The Honourable" for life. By contrast, since 1968, members of the Executive Council of Quebec have not used the title "The Honourable".
In the Spanish Autonomous Community of Catalonia the word Honorable (Catalan: Honorable) is used for current and former members of the cabinet (consellers) of the President of the Catalan Government (Generalitat de Catalunya). Former and current Heads of Government or President of the Generalitat are given the name of Molt Honorable ("Right Honorable"). This also applies to former and current heads of government of the Autonomous Communities of Valencia and Balearic Islands.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the prefix 'Honorable' or 'Hon.' is used for members of both chambers of the Parliament of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Informally, senators are sometimes given the higher title of 'Venerable'.
A rough equivalent of "The Honourable" would be Hochwohlgeboren ("High Well-born"), which was used until 1918 for all members of properly noble families not having any higher style. Its application to bourgeois dignitaries became common in the 19th century, though it has faded since and was always of doubtful correctness.
A literal equivalent of "The Honourable", Ehrwürdig or Ehrwürden, is used for Catholic clergy and religious—with the exceptions of priests and abbesses, who are Hochwürden (Reverend). A subdeacon is "Very Honourable" (Wohlehrwürden); a deacon is "Right Honourable" (Hochehrwürden).
In Hong Kong, the prefix "The Honourable" is used for the following people:
In the Republic of India, Vice President, Judges of the Higher Judiciary, i.e., both Supreme Court & High Court, are referred as 'Honorable Mr/Mrs Justice' (written as Hon'ble ). The Members of Parliament of both the Upper and the Lower houses are referred to as Honorable Member. Members of the executive, who are also the members of the Legislative such as the Prime Minister are referred to as The Honorable Member/Minister, Members of assembly and councils in state are also referred to as honorable, Chairmen and members of union and state public service commissions while in their office are also referred to as Honorable. Usually the abbreviation The Hon. is used before their names. Mayors are addressable with the same decorum.
In Italy, the style "The Honourable" (Italian: Onorevole) is customarily used to refer to a member of the Italian Parliament (Chamber of Deputies and Senate of the Republic) and to a member of the Sicilian Regional Assembly or to a member of the Rome City Council. Former MPs can maintain the style.
In Macau, the prefix "The Honourable" is used occasionally for the following people:
In Malaysia, an elected Member of Parliament or State Legislative Assemblyman will be entitled to be referred to as "Yang Berhormat", which is literally "The Honourable".
All members of the unicameral Parliament of Malta are entitled to this prefix.
Recipients of the rank of Grand Officer or above of the Order of the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean are automatically entitled to prefix The Hon, Hons or The Honourable to their name. Commanders and Officers may request permission from the President to use this prefix. Recipients of the order who are not Mauritian citizens may not use the prefix or post-nominals unless granted permission by the President.
The style "The Honourable" was first granted in 1854 for use by members of the Executive Council, the Speaker of the Legislative Council, the Members of the Legislative Council, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
In addition to the standard Commonwealth usage, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was entitled to be referred to as The Honourable until 2010, when it was announced that sitting and future Governors-General, Prime Ministers, Chief Justices, and Speakers of the House of Representatives would be entitled to be referred to as The Right Honourable.
In July 2006 the Governor-General was entitled to use the style "the Honourable" upon assuming office until 2010 when former Governors-General were granted the title of "The Right Honourable" if they did not hold the title already or were a Privy Counsellor.
New Zealand office holders who are "Honourable" ex-officio can be granted the style for life as a courtesy when they vacate the office; all honours and awards are published in The New Zealand Gazette.
In the Philippines, the style is usually used to give distinction to any elected official ranging from the smallest political unit, the barangay, to the Congress of the Philippines, which consists of a Senate and House of Representatives. For example, a Kagawad (barangay or village council member) named Juan de la Cruz will be referred to as The Honorable Juan de la Cruz. In written form, the style may be shortened to "Hon." (e.g. Hon. Juan de la Cruz).
The Chief Justice, Justices of the Supreme Court of the Philippines and Court of Appeals, and Trial Court Judges are also addressed in this style. Meanwhile, the President and Vice-President of the Philippines is always given the style His/Her Excellency.
In Pakistan, the judicial officers are addressed as honourable while presiding over in the courts of law. It is a norm to address judges of superior judiciary as honourabe judges. Diplomats are addressed as Your Excellency. The head of state and Prime Minister is addressed her/his excellency.
UNESCO an agency of United Nations conferred Confucius Award, title of honourable upon a Pakistani educationist, Dr. Allah Bakhsh Malik in recognition of leadership role and meritorious services, for the promotion of education, adult literacy and vocational skill development. He is the only Pakistani conferred the honorific title of honourable by United Nations's UNESCO.
Private organisations, non-profit, NGOs and religious movements sometimes style a leader or founder as The Honourable; e.g. "The Honourable Elijah Muhammad". When written, it is sometimes shortened to "The Hon." or simply "Hon." for abbreviation.
The Chief Justice, Judges of Appeal, and Justices of the Supreme Court, and the Presiding Judge and District Judges of the State Courts are conventionally addressed in formal settings using the honorific "The Honourable".
The use of the honorific "the Honourable" to refer to the Prime Minister, Ministers, and Members of Parliament is not required by the Standing Orders of Parliament, but during a 1988 parliamentary debate the Leader of the House, Wong Kan Seng, said it would be polite for MPs to refer to their colleagues using the terms "Mr.", "Honourable Mr." or "Honourable Minister" depending on their choice.
All members of the National Assembly of South Africa are entitled to this prefix.
In Sri Lanka, the following people are entitled to the style The Honourable :
In the United Kingdom, all sons and daughters of viscounts and barons (including the holders of life peerages) and the younger sons of earls are styled with this prefix. (The daughters and younger sons of dukes and marquesses and the daughters of earls have the higher style of Lord or Lady before their first names, and the eldest sons of dukes, marquesses and earls are known by one of their father's or mother's subsidiary titles). The style is only a courtesy, however, and on legal documents they may be described as, for instance, John Smith, Esq., commonly called The Honourable John Smith. As the wives of sons of peers share the styles of their husbands, the wives of the sons of viscounts and barons and the younger sons of earls are styled, for example, The Hon. Mrs John Smith. Likewise, the married daughters of viscounts and barons, whose husbands hold no higher title or dignity, are styled, for example, The Hon. Mrs Smith.
Additionally, a maid of honour is styled with this prefix for life.
Some people are entitled to the prefix by virtue of their offices. Rules exist that allow certain individuals to keep the prefix The Honourable even after retirement.
Several corporate entities have been awarded the style by Royal Warrant, for example:
The style The Honourable is usually used in addressing envelopes (where it is usually abbreviated to The Hon) and formally elsewhere, in which case Mr or Esquire are omitted. In speech, however, The Honourable John Smith is usually referred to simply as Mr John Smith.
In the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, as in other lower houses of Parliament and other legislatures, members refer to each other as honourable members etc. out of courtesy, but they are not entitled to the style in writing. When members are ordained clergy they will instead be referred to as the honourable and reverend member, with a barrister called the honourable and learned member and serving or ex-serving members of the military (formerly less of a rarity than today) being styled the honourable and gallant member. Where a person is entitled to the prefix The Right Honourable they will use this style instead of The Honourable.
In the United States of America, the prefix the Honorable has been used to formally address various officials at the federal and state levels, but it is most commonly used for the President, governors of states, and judges and members of Congress when formally addressing them. Modifiers such as the Right Honorable or the Most Honorable are not used. The "t" in "the" is not capitalized in the middle of a sentence.
Under the rules of etiquette, the President, Vice President, members of both houses of Congress, governors of states, members of state legislatures, and mayors are accorded the title. Persons appointed to office nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate are accorded the title; this rule includes members of the Cabinet and sub-Cabinet (such as deputies and undersecretaries), administrators, members, and commissioners of the various independent agencies, councils, commissions, and boards, federal judges, ambassadors of the United States, U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Marshals, the Librarian of Congress and Public Printer of the United States, and presidentially appointed inspectors general.
High state officials other than governor, such as lieutenant governor and state attorneys general are also accorded the title of "the Honorable." State court judges and justices, like federal judges, also are accorded "the Honorable" title. Practices vary on whether appointed state official, such as the heads of state Cabinet-level departments are given the title. There is also no universal rule for whether city officials other than the mayor (such as city council, board of aldermen, board of selectmen, planning and zoning commission members, and code enforcement board members, or city manager or police chief or fire chief) are given the title; local practices vary.
Members of the White House staff at the rank of special assistant, deputy assistant, assistant to the president, and Counselor to the President are accorded the title, although one writer disagrees. Officials nominated to high office but not yet confirmed (e.g., commissioner-designate) and interim or acting officials are generally not accorded the title "the Honorable," except for Cabinet-level officials.
Opinions vary on whether the term "the Honorable" is accorded for life. According to the protocols of the U.S. Department of State, all persons who have been in a position that entitled them to "The Honorable" continue to retain that honorific title even after they leave that position.  However, The State Department is not an authority on state and local officials such as mayors, members of state legislatures, and high state officials. It should never, however, based on the rules of etiquette, be used for persons who are deceased.
American protocol expert Robert Hickey says, "The courtesy title The Honorable is used when addressing or listing the name of a living person. When the name of a deceased person is listed it is just (Full Name) + Office Held." The 2016 Bloomsbury guide to titles and forms of address states that the title 'honourable' in this context is "held for life or during tenure of office." The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage by Allan M. Siegal (1999), p. 88, advises: "Omit courtesy titles with surnames of historic or pre-eminent figures no longer living."
Some estimate that in the United States there are nearly 100,000 people who are accorded the "Honorable" title, many in the Washington, D.C. region. Although the civilian officials, including the service secretaries (e.g., Secretary of the Army) of the Pentagon receive the title, military officers do not receive this title, although they are confirmed by the Senate.
In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, commissioned Kentucky colonels are considered members of the governor's staff and his honorary aides-de-camp, and as such are entitled to the style of Honorable as indicated on their commission certificates. The commission and letters patent granted by the governor and secretary of state bestowing the title of Kentucky colonel refers to the honoree as "Honorable First Name Last Name." However, this style is rarely used with most Kentucky colonels preferring to be referred to and addressed as colonel.
The style The Honorable is used on envelopes when referring to an individual in the third person. It is never used to refer to oneself.
A spouse of someone with the style of The Honorable receives no additional style, unless personally entitled to the style in his or her own right by virtue of holding, or having held, one of the offices mentioned above.