Entitled vs. titled

When they are synonymous with named or called, there is no substantive difference between entitled and titled. Some people object to this use entitled, but the objection is baseless. The use of entitled to mean named goes back centuries, and entitled was in fact the preferred term until recently. Google Books uncovers only 23 instances of the phrase “book titled” in works published in the 19th century, against some 31,000 instances of “book entitled.” (Titled in those days was much more often used to mean having a noble title.) This ngram, which graphs occurrence of the two phrases in English-language texts published from 1800 to 2000, shows that “book titled” did not gain significant ground until the second half of the 20th century:

Book Entitled Vs Book Titled English

The trend in this century goes against tradition. Google News searches covering the last few years show that titled now prevails by an approximately three-to-one margin. This is probably due to the growing use of entitled to mean having a right or claim to something.


Here are a few examples, spanning the last two centuries, of entitled used to mean named:

Mr Miller of Lincoln’s Inn has just published a book, entitled, “An Inquiry into the Present State of the Civil Law of England.” [Blackwood’s Magazine (1825)]

A clever article entitled “Why Progress is in Leaps” might better have been entitled “A Review of the World’s Scientific Progress. [Michigan Law Journal (1896)]

Both  the foregoing series by Hiroshige and Hiroshige II have been copied, practically line for line, by Hasegawa Sadanobu in a quarter-plate set entitled Shokoku Meisho Hyak’kei. [A Guide to Japanese Prints and their Subject Matter, Basil Stewart (1922)]

So certain were the Brazilians of victory that they had already written and recorded a victory samba entitled “Brazil the Victora.” [The Guardian (1950)]

The Rev. Donald Cozzens, author of a new and challenging book entitled ”The Changing Face of the Priesthood” will be the featured speaker. [Boston Globe (2002)]

Most examples of the use of titled from before the last few decades are like these (re-create our Google Books search here):

The titled Aristocracy being the choosers, we may in practice reject the two last Classes of Eligibles, as they would scarcely ever be resorted to. [Pamphlets for the People (1835)]

With such triumphs of aerial architecture did Mrs Nickleby occupy the whole evening after her accidental introduction to Ralph’s titled friends. [The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens (1839)]

Returning with her to the principal room, where a titled lady sat ensconced in the corner of a sofa, he rudely pushed her aside with the words: “Get out of the way, fat cow.” [Art and Life (1918)]

Titled here means bearing a noble title.  

In current news publications, however, titled is very often used in place of entitled—for example:

Six years ago, The Times’ editorial board wrote a piece titled “The Math of the Market,” which argued that there was something special about having at least four companies competing in every segment. [Los Angeles Times]

The talent hunt, titled Scene Stealers, asked amateur film-makers to borrow from Film 4 productions over the years. [Guardian]

In a new e-book, titled How to Survive in a Recession, Mr. Thug (née Stayve Jerome Thomas) doles out forthright financial advice. [Globe and Mail]

Titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man), the original was painted in oil in 1910 directly onto a column in the Iglesia del Santuario de Misericordia church in Borja, northeastern Spain.[News.com.au]

Examples of entitled used to mean named are still out there, but they are buried under thousands of instances of entitled used in its other sense.

15 thoughts on “Entitled vs. titled”

  1. Ok, well at least I’m free to prefer “titled” to mean “named” and “entitled” to mean “having a claim”.
    In this case, I don’t really care if there are no grounds for it.
    I just prefer it.

  2. Interesting–I’ve normally seen (and used) ‘entitled’ when submitting research articles for publication, e.g., Dear Editors, please find attached our manuscript ‘entitled’….

  3. Using titled to refer to the name of an article or book is just wrong. It has crept in unnoticed with many other americanisms and should be resisted – IT IS WRONG. I’ve read all the arguments but it is clear to me that the use of titled, to mean anything other than having bestowed, or been bestowed with, a noble title, has only arrived as English and American have become jumbled by increased travel and now the internet age. The dictionary may say titled is just as good but us proper English people know better. We’ll be calling petrol gas next – where will it all end?

    • I don’t agree that this is an Americanism – there are plenty of forums out there arguing about the use of titled and entitled in this context with many Americans favouring “entitled” – I used entitled all my life until two British editors on separate occasions told me that it was completely wrong (not that one could use either – completely, utterly wrong) so since then Ive been using titled…. now both sound weird.

    • It is certainly not a recent development but
      one that has long standing in British English so your claim that proper English people know better is rather embarrassing – the Brits caused
      the problem in the first place!

      title (n.) c.1300, “inscription, heading,” from Old French title (12c.), and in part from Old English titul, both from Latin titulus
      “inscription, heading,” of unknown origin. Meaning “name of a book,
      play, etc.” first recorded mid-14c. The sense of “name showing a
      person’s rank” is first attested 1580s.title (v.) “to furnish with a title,” late 14c., from title (n.). Related: Titled; titling.

      • entitle (v.) late 14c., “to give a title to a chapter, book, etc.,” from Anglo-French entitler, Old French entiteler (Modern French intituler), from Late Latin intitulare, from in- “in” (see in- (2)) + titulus “title” (see title (n.)).

        Meaning “to bestow (on a person) a rank or office” is mid-15c. Sense of
        “to give (someone) ‘title’ to an estate or property,” hence to give that
        person a claim to possession or privilege, is mid-15c.; this now is
        used mostly in reference to circumstances and actions. Related: Entitled; entitling.

    • I use to think that you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition but now I heard that this is changing. Language changes over time- chill. This is the way it has always been.

    • Have you heard of the terms ‘prescriptive’ and ‘descriptive’ as they relate to language? Whether YOU deem it wrong or not, if enough people use a lexical or grammatical form to the extent that it gains widespread use, it becomes accepted AND acceptable. You cannot make entire nations of people conform to a prescribed notion of a word if trending alters it. Once it morphs, that’s it. Get over it! It’s like the commonly used ’10 items or less’ at the checkout of a supermarket. Is it incorrect grammar? Yes. Is there any point shouting from the treetops or in cyberspace about it? NO! Because it’s happened, the change has been made, it is deemed acceptable and is, more importantly, now in frequent use.

  4. “Some people object to this use entitled, but the objection is baseless. The use of entitled to mean named goes back centuries, and entitled was in fact the preferred term until recently.” Absolutely false. The words have two very different definitions. One definition fits something that someone has a right to, and the other gives a name to something. The reason that titled has become preferred is because the two terms were butchered before and we are finally being more gooder in our English.

    • Nope – we are becoming badder. It’s all about context. Yes, in one context, entitled means having a (God given) right to food and shelter. In the context of what the title of a book or film is, it is indeed entitled, Food and Shelter. And let me now knight you: Arise Sir Colossus and congrats as you are now titled (and, although you are entitled to use the title, do remember it is actually rather bad form to use it).

  5. Oh, I get it. If you’re well educated and well read, you’ll tend to use “entitled” because that’s what you are most exposed to in the texts that you’ve read. However, if you’re a typical borderline illiterate American who reads no more than 2 books a year, both of which are romance novels, you will probably tend toward “titled”.

  6. When referring to works of art I have created and literature I have written, I always use “entitled” when referring to the name of the work. Ex: This body of work is entitled, Sunset in the East.

    I’m at peace with it. :-)


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