Titled versus Entitled

By Daniel Scocco

Another day I was browsing around the Internet and I came across this sentence:

You might want to check out this great article that I found; it is entitled “bla bla bla.”

But was the article really entitled?

There is a common confusion between the words titled and entitled. Titled would have been the correct adjective for that sentence. If something is “titled” it means that it received such a title, either by the author or by someone else.

Entitled, on the other hand, means that a person has rights to something. If you are entitled to a house, for instance, it means that the law protects your right to own that house.

Some dictionaries propose that “to entitle” can also mean “to give a title.” I have rarely seen mainstream publications back up such usage, however. Below you will find two quotations from The Economist illustrating the point.

A visit to Canada’s web-site where the Federal Government describes itself to the world, particularly the section titled “Powers of National and Provincial Governments, as written by the late Honourable Eugene A. (The Economist)

The largesse has not been restricted to poor children. Since 1998 all pre-schoolers have been entitled to some free nursery care once they turn four, and in 2004 that entitlement was extended to three-year-olds. (The Economist)

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50 Responses to “Titled versus Entitled”

  • Aaron

    Claiming that you have rarely seen it done is not a good argument that it can or should not be done. According to the dictionary definition of “entitled”, I see no reason why your opening sentence needs to be changed. While I do agree that there is a stylistic convention, you seem to be arguing that it’s more of a black and white matter.

  • Darlene Oakley

    I must beg to differ. Perhaps “entitled” is not used as much anymore, but to say, John wrote an article entitled… is correct.

    According to dictionary.com (look up “entitled”) this is a perfectly acceptable use of the word. Perhaps it’s more British in origin, but it is correct.

  • VS

    Entitled is incorrect, because, for example, a book has a Title. A book does not have an Entitle.

    So, past tense of Title is Titled!! Titled is correct.

  • mobrien

    Entitled, when used to mean “to give title to,” is incorrectly used to refer to the title of an article, as in the example first given. One could say, “She entitled her article…,” but not, “Her article entitled…” She gave title to her article in the first example. But there was no giving in the second example.

  • Vic

    Hi, I think many writers have been using the word “entitled” because it sounds better that “titled”. I know that the meaning of entitled may be incorrect for completing the sentence, but if you search the keyword “”an article entitled”, you will find our that many writers are still using that word instead of the titled.

  • Andrew

    I want to clear this matter up right now. Titled is how you describe a periodical’s name. Entitled, though fancy sounding when used in a sentence, cannot be used to describe a periodical’s name. It has no claim to the name therefore it is not entitled to be described that way. Here, in America, proper grammar is a must when describing anything and helps to make you appear intelligent to others. I cannot stand people who apply personifications to inanimate objects like book titles. Books don’t have any rights, personal opinions, or feelings about the name of their titles. They are what they are-books. That is all they can ever be. A vessel that provides knowledge for whomever reads them. So everyone stop trying to justify your idiotic arguments about referring to books’ titles as entitled because you cannot be anymore wrong about that and it makes you look like fools assigning personal feelings to book titles when they don’t have any emotions. So wise up and accept that what I speak is the truth. Either deal with it or don’t, but stop trying to defend your statements because they have no merits at all.

  • Jay Edgar

    Interesting. This dictionary entry: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/entitle clearly says that the word ‘entitled’ can be applied to a book.

    Andrew, having a discussion is a fine thing. While using wrong wording can make people look ignorant, being so insistent can make one look churlish, uncivil and boorish.

  • John

    Pretty much every dictionary disagrees with this article.

  • jim

    Andrew on March 14 is correct.
    Most of the rest of you, acquiesce.
    Or join the language Democracy, who, by majority, decide that nucular is a fine way to go.

  • J.B.

    Much as I think “entitled” sounds pretentious and much as I hate dictionary.com and the like, the OED backs the use of “entitle” as a verb to refer to the title of a work. Definition I.a. reads “To furnish (a literary work, a chapter, etc.) with a heading or superscription; in early use gen. (cf. title n.). Subsequently only in narrower sense: To give to (a book, etc.) a designation by which it is to be cited, or which indicates the nature of its contents. Chiefly with obj. compl.; also const. †by, †with.”

    Examples of use include “a book entitled ‘De Nugis Curialium’” though more prevalent are examples of an author entitling his or her work.

  • Entitled is correct

    I always thought people who used “titled” just didn’t know any better. All of the older books said, “the book was entitled…” I had no idea until today that any of you actually thought we were wrong. Please look up information before blogging. Otherwise, you just spread more mistakes.

  • Silvia

    Perhaps it’s just a case of a difference between British English and American English. I have a hunch (but no proof) that “entitled” is more correct in British English (in the quoted sentence), and “titled” in American English. If the people in favo(u)r of one or the other word could reveal which side of the Atlantic they come from, may be we would find a pattern.

  • Literate

    The use of “titled” appears to be gaining ground in journalism and business-speak, but “the article is entitled ‘X'” is perfectly good English. Anyone who doubts that has clearly not read much in books. (For those who need an explanation: the word “entitle” used in this way is like “enthrone,” “enshrine,” or “entrap,” and semantically it has nothing to do with rights or entitlements.)

  • andrew bruch

    Looking in the 1948 Websters 2nd edition, the first definition the editors provide for entitle is to “give title to” as in “to entitle a book”…

    Just because you find more people using the awkward sounding “to title” or “titled” does not mean that people who continue to use the word in its *long* accepted manner are doing so incorrectly. It is true that entitled has this creeping pejorative connotation as in “the entitled generation” or the derision heaped upon “entitlement programs” but these represent merely a second meaning to the word.

    Your entry merits a revision.

  • Brian

    I agree 100% with Literate, who posted the following two posts above this one:

    The use of “titled” appears to be gaining ground in journalism and business-speak, but “the article is entitled ‘X’” is perfectly good English.

  • Chris

    An object simply holding a title is one state, and an object coming to hold the title is another. “Titled” can more correctly be used for the former, “entitled” for the latter.

  • Curtis Hed

    I have to say I was questioning whether to use the word entitled to describe the name I gave a chapter within a book. I was thinking this because it sounds better than title, but I wasn’t sure if that was correct. Then I read the this article and after reading all the comments I have to side with “entitled” and here’s why. A book, or a chapter within a book, has been given a titled, it has been entitled. Or, think of it this way, the book has been enveloped, wrapped with a title. As in “I have entitled this chapter ‘such and such'”.

  • Jose Cano

    Gee thanks, everyone. I am glad I clicked on this article to obtain clarification. Things are as clear as mud, thanks.

  • Literary Master

    Andrew, you are a fool. As much as you drone on, you fail to provide your statements with evidence. Time to be a big boy Andrew. Pick up a reference and find the correct answer. Sometimes big boys read!

  • Andy Hollis

    In my 40 years in academia (in the UK) I’ve never come across ‘titled’ for a book, article, chapter etc. The word makes me think of the House of Lords, the Upper House of Parliament. Its members, whether male or female, are all ‘titled’. This is perhaps why there is such a difference in usage between Britain and the US. Over there, you don’t tend to indulge in titles quite like we do.

  • Nanette

    I’m American and have used both “title” and ‘entitle,” but as I’ve progressed in academic writing, “entitled” has become much more prevelent in my work.

    A couple of observations: as I read through the responses, it does appear that those who are pro “entitle” actually went to other sources to check the truth of the matter while those who oppose the usage seem to do so because the word bothers them. The arguments meant to mask this personal irritation don’t seem to have grounds or merit, one or two border on outright weird.

    Also, as some suggested, this might be an American-English thing. If we think about how Americans have slowly moved away from British English, it makes sense that we will have our own ways of spelling and using words. But, since most of those who approve of “entitle” mentioned being avid readers, it seems our access to old books and therefore, older spellings (favour instead of favor) and usage, has informed our writing style. Or at least, our tolerance of uncommon usages and spellings.

    Lastly, for Andy H. – it would seem that the British have the same reasons for disliking “titled” as Americans have for disliking “entitled.” Brits dislike the connotations of aristocracy in the word “titled” while Americans dislike “entitled” because of what we see as damaging unfair/welfare systems that are helpful to the rich and poor, respectively, but crushing to the middle class.

  • michael bouwman

    With respect, ‘titled’ is an Americanisation (as is commonly, the converting of a noun into a verb, by adding ‘ing’ onto it, even when no verb form of the noun exists). In Australia, I have always known the verb ‘entitled’ as meaning, ‘to have the title’. Many American modifications to English involves the erasure of anything French (so ‘colour’ becomes ‘color’). The dropping of the ‘en’ from ‘entitled’ is just another example. However, usage in America, is becoming adopted elsewhere ad hoc, so in as far as English is a living language, both ‘entitled’ and ‘titled’ are acceptable, but the latter is more recent. For some of us, the French influence on English is still a guilty pleasure. I suspect in the USA, it is an annoyance 😉

  • John

    Just to give some historical perspective to this whole issue, the earliest recorded use of the word “title” in the sense of “to give a name to” appears to be 1590, whereas the earliest recorded use of “entitle” in this sense appears to be 1447. (Source: Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary).
    So purists and traditionalists can rest easy in the knowledge that both have a long and distinguished history, and there is no reason why either should be ousted from the English language any time soon.

  • Ann

    John, I think you trumped them all. Congrats!

  • Stephan

    Those who insist that “entitled” cannot be used in the following manner, “the book of which she is speaking is entitled, Madame Bovery”, should learn more about syntactic categories…both are grammatically correct in this context.

  • Meatwad

    The use of entitled can be round about justified with an ownership clause. Now that I’ve sed dat, thee openink line starting with that first word is in error, like totally mann. (4 spelling sic)

    “Another day”

    Try ‘The other day’, or ‘One day’, what a bust. Or as the kids say, fail.

    Back to entitled vs titled, face it, our language is fluid and is in motion. I really despise “pleaded” instead of the Proper ‘pled’ past tense, and a few others just like it with the past tense using an ‘ed’ when there is a proper word to use, I hate periods too.

  • Grant

    Good grief!

    I’m not sure if anyone writing comments like “Here, in America, proper grammar is a must when describing anything and helps to make you appear intelligent to others” is really an American asking to be taken seriously, or just lampooning the literary style of that great nation with gentle irony.

    For what its worth, if The Economist is being quoted as a reference source, a quick scan of recent articles in its “Culture” section reveals no examples of “titled”, but several of “entitled”, as in:

    “Mr Köver has banned index.hu, Hungary’s most popular news portal, from reporting from the chamber after two of its reporters made a video entitled “Merry Christmas Hungarian democracy”.”

    or..

    “Now at Crane Kalman Gallery is an exhibition entitled “Women and Art”.”

    Fowler’s Modern English Usage simply says that when used “of a book etc” entitled means “given the title of”, seemingly irrespective of who gave it that title , or when. I take it that a book, once given a title, is from then on “entitled”, and should be referred to as such. Fowler seems unaware of the possibility that anyone might think that “titled” would be appropriate in reference to a book. If it were “titled” would we not have to call it “Sir”, or perhaps “Your Lordship”?

    (And yes, I see that my typos are even worse typos than those of others in this thread!)

  • pater tenebrarum

    Actually, it appears to me that ‘entitled’ is the far more commonly used term when referring to the title of a book. ‘Titled’is used more often in connection with describing nobles who have a title; a count is for instance a ‘titled’ person.
    Mind, I’m not saying that using ‘titled’ to describe a book’s title is wrong – it is merely the less commonly used expression.
    While it is of course true that ‘entitled’ has another important meaning as well (‘having a claim to’), it is not unusual for one word to have two different meanings that can only be gleaned from the context in which they are used. There is no such rule as a ‘word must only have a single meaning’.

  • James Piper

    I came looking for a definitive answer on using title versus entitle when discussing the title of a book. I have my answer and it’s not what this web page suggests. I will continue to use entitle such “the book entitled…” It’s a valid use of the word and it sounds right to my ear whereas using “the book titled…” seems jarring to me.

    James Piper
    Twitter @ByJamesPiper

  • Tania

    Since we are all entitled to an opinion, I would like to simply say that I appreciate Andrew’s sense of humor… Having turned to this web link to find an answer, and instead of a solid answer I found humor… Cheers Andrew…

  • Jeff Key

    “Literate” gives such a great response. Using the other examples like “enthroned” et. al. make it much easier to understand. Both “entitled” and “titled” are indeed correct according to the OED. I’m used to seeing “entitled” used to mean “titled” because I’m an English major and read a fair amount of literary criticisms that refer to the title of a poem, a book, an article, etc..
    The reason I started exploring the word tonight, however, has nothing to do with this use. I have heard it used ironically so frequently that I thought that usage must be one of the definition. I’m talking about in sentences such as:
    “The governor’s son was rich, snobbish and entitled.” or
    “Her beauty gave her an almost palpable sense of entitlement.”
    Any thoughts?

  • John

    When referring to a written work such as a book, both titled and entitled are unnecessary For example, “The book, ‘Harry Potter’ is an excellent read.” It is obvious one is naming the title of the written work, as it was entitled by the author.

    In a similar sentence “The author, JK Rowling wrote a great book.” we seldom, if ever see it written “The author (named) JK Rowling wrote a great book.”

  • Cutter

    What I think many people are missing is that, yes, both can be correct in the right context.

    A person can give a title to something, therefore, entitled exists in your dictionary as having that meaning:

    “Dr. Braun entitled his speech once he finished writing it.” This sentence is an acceptable use of the word “entitled.”

    However, often when we see the word written it’s in a sentence that makes the usage contextually incorrect:

    “The play, entitled “Down by the River,” was a fascinating interpretation of classical literature. In this sentence, the use of the word “entitled” is, without exception, completely wrong.

    The play itself is not entitled to anything. The author has titled or entitled (both correct here) the play. But if the subject of the sentence is not a person who has given a title to, or bestowed a title upon something or someone, then the usage is wrong.

    Does that make sense to everyone? I have a background in journalism as editor in chief of my college paper and this is precisely what modern journalism books teach at the collegiate level. It’s extremely important to be precise in journalism.

  • Shelby

    When I was in college I was given a “B” instead of an “A” on a major paper, after using the word “entitled” instead of “titled”.

    This was many years ago but I was furious. but, at that time the professor insisted and had back up that I was wrong.

    However, Webster’s Dictionary states now that “entitled” is correct when speaking of the name if a book.

    I looked this up in 3 Dictionaries and all say “entitled” is correct.

    No matter what we think as people, it really is not an opinion – it is a fact – dictionaries say it is correct so it is.

  • I.MO

    Entitle is a verb that means to give title to a book, film, etc. Therefore, we could say, “His novel, entitled ‘Pride and Prejudice, has won an award.” In this example, the subject of the sentence is the one who gave the title to the novel. Thus, we use entitled.

    Titled is an adjective that is used after a verb that means ‘with the title of’. So, we could say, “Jessica wrote a report about Chelsea titled ‘Are you there Vodka?’ In this example, the subject only refers to a certain book which was given a title by an author.

  • Amy V

    Where did the author go to school?! He says there is only one definition of the word “entitled,” – “that a person has rights to something.” Seriously, have you actually looked the word up? Often the following definition is listed first under the word – “to give a name or title to,” as referenced in the online “The Free Dictionary.” I am fairly sure that when I was a child some 25 – 30 years ago, I mostly saw the word “entitled” properly used to describe a book, article, etc having a title. I rarely saw “titled” used in this way, and when I did, I knew it was WRONG because it was made clear to us in English grammar classes that you absolutely DO NOT use the word “titled” to describe the title of a work. (The main proper use of the word concerns a person with a title.) Truly, people might think it sounds odd now because for several years, it seems many publications have taken to using the incorrect word so that, just as I feared would result, everyone now thinks “titled” is the only – or at least preferred – way to refer to the title given to a book or the like. This is a major pet peeve of mine because, again, we were taught the clear distinction in the two words, and now most people have just thrown that out of the window.

  • Steve Woodward

    From The Associated Press Stylebook, the arbiter of American journalistic style:

    “Entitled: Use it to mean a right to do or have something. Do not use it to mean titled.
    Right: She was entitled to the promotion.
    Right: The book was titled “Gone With the Wind.”

    The AP Stylebook, however, is often at odds with more formal English usage guides.

  • Andrew

    It’s very simple if you care to think about the evolution of the word. A title was ‘also’ something given to a person of note or prestige, such as a dignitary. They were ‘entitled’ meaning they were given that title. Because it was something of significance and respect, over the years a person has been referred to as ‘entitled to such a right.’ The language has evolved to include such a usage of the term and now people are starting to differentiate by using ‘titled’ in place of entitled. Neither is wrong because language evolves. (Personally, though, I would go with entitled – because my mum’s a teacher!!!).

  • TonyInNYC

    To pick up on what michael bouwmanon November 11, 2011 said, although we seem to have had “entitled” (for books) since Middle English, from Anglo-French “entitler,” from Late Latin “intitulare,” from Latin in- + titulus (“inscription” or “label”) and it seems like the en- prefix, which creates transitive verbs from noun bases (e.g., throne (noun) > enthrone (verb)), has been natural for us in the past, perhaps we’re seeing Americans’ sparer sense of the the language making its influence felt.

  • Ed the Photographer

    My photographs have titles – but they are not entitled. Just my opinion and I’m sticking to it,

    But what REALLY concerns me is this – when I frame a print for hanging in a gallery or art show, will the print be hung or hanged? Neither really “sounds” correct – but I tend to use “hung” to mean any form of suspension of an object (or person) by a rope or wire. Yet another case where American (bastardized) English is the reason. (And I am American!)

  • Mike Writer

    Andrew is the poster child for “YOU’RE WRONG!” Entitled, is most certainly a correct usage of the word. When referring to a title given to a book by an author it’s absolutely without a doubt, 100% correct.

  • Victoria

    Just read this interesting comment on the subject by Eugent Volokh at The Washington Post:

    Prof. Mark Liberman (Language Log) quotes a commenter who writes,

    In reference to: This ties in perfectly with the recent post entitled “Once more on the present continuative ending -ing in Chinese” in two ways:

    Entitled is incorrect. TITLED is correct.

    Unless the letters are “entitled” to an ice cream cone.

    I’ve seen this elsewhere, and think it’s just zany. Look up “entitled” in the Random House Dictionary, and you see definition 2, “to call by a particular title or name: What was the book entitled?” Look it up in the Oxford English Dictionary, as you see examples going literally all the way back to Chaucer. (I mean here “literally” in the sense of “literally,” not in the sense of “figuratively.”) Unsurprisingly, other dictionaries follow suit. And a quick Google Ngrams search reports that, while “a book entitled” and “a book called” have been about equally common for centuries, “a book titled” was virtually never used until the late 1930s, and remains less than half as common than “a book entitled” even today.

    Words have multiple meanings. That can be annoying. It can be distracting. Sometimes (though not that often) it can be confusing. But even if we wish that only one of those meanings survive, that doesn’t make all the others “wrong” under any sensible definition of “wrong” that I can think of.

    So if you want to say that you think “entitled” in this context comes across to you as unduly fancy, or as potentially distracting, or as just plain annoying, go right ahead (though you might be properly reluctant to condemn a fellow participant in a conversation on such grounds). But there’s no basis, it seems to me, for labeling it “incorrect,” unless you can explain who died and appointed you Usage King.

  • roland

    The usage is based upon the prefix “en” (expressing entry into the specified state or location) as in ENscripted. Which justifies its usage in saying the book is ENtitled.

    Language is fluid, but intellectual stubborness of this kind is plain ignorance. The use of the word “entitle” simply sounds more elegant in language, just as “How are you?” sounds more elegant than “Sup?”

    Aight?

  • Merijn

    Not to provide an answer to the endless discussion whether American-English or British-English should be followed as a guideline, but the title of a person and the title of a book are the exact same thing (they have a different use/meaning/purpose – but a title is a title). And as said before, the prefix en- is just there to denote that it has become rather than always was. (You are enthroned because you weren’t always on that throne,

    Therefor I would argue that it is correct ‘to entitle’ something/someone, in which case he/she/it/whatever becomes ‘titled’. Anything can be given a title, therefor anything (from a photograph to a person and from a book to a car) can be titled, entitled, untitled and perhaps even overtitled (though OS X puts a dotted red line underneath that…).

    The second meaning of to be entitled (to something) originates from there but (by now) isn’t related to whether someone actually has a title; and so isn’t even remotely related to the discussion of whether a book is titled or entitled. Arguing that a book cannot be entitled because ‘it has no rights’ is just plain gibberish.

    Being entitled TO something and being (en)titled AS something is not the same. Period.

    P.S. Not a native speaker, nor a perfect human. Also didn’t look it up. Deal with it.

  • Vicki

    Hmm. Interesting point, but I have to disagree. Perhaps I am older than you are?

    Entitled has been, and still is, a correct way to refer to a book or publication. http://grammarist.com/usage/entitled-titled/

  • Jeremy

    So does the author of this not know it is still online, and that his statements have been shown to be inaccurate? You’d think he would have edited it or removed it by now. Just because modern styles have changed a bit, and people start misusing words, doesn’t mean a long established definition is wrong. That just sounds like the arrogance of youth.

  • Heather

    Ed the Photographer: inanimate objects like your photographs are hung, people sentenced to death are hanged, eg “During the Salem witch trials, those found guilty were hanged at Gallows Hill, not burned at the stake as was frequently done in European witch trials.”

    I was an English major and have worked in scientific publishing/communications for many years, but never heard “titled” used to describe what an article or book is called until this year. I have always used “entitled,” and I’m an American in case you couldn’t tell by my spelling and punctuation. Saying that a book is “titled” conjures for me the image of a tome standing in front of a king and being given the title of Lord or Baron (as in a person being described as a “titled landowner”). When I first started seeing this usage, I asked my mother about it (she used to teach Reading and Grammar), and she looked at me in horror and said, “Oh no, that’s just WRONG!”

    I believe that the difference here is not an American vs British English difference, but rather a journalism vs non-journalism writing convention. Journalistic writing style tends to (in my opinion) overly shorten things to reduce character count, which I suspect started when text was still typeset by hand on the press. This style difference has constantly been a source of frustration to me in the case of serial comma (aka “Oxford” comma) use, which is not present in journalism but is frequently essential for clarity.

  • Martha

    Some years ago a writer friend corrected me on my use of “entitled”. She pointed out that a book could not have entitlement, etc. and that “titled” is correct. After that I thought everybody and his brother was an ignoramus for saying ” entitled “. On occasion, I would point ot out.
    Recently, I pointed out this distinction to a woman I met in Florida. She is a professor. She took me at my word with a kind of openminded amazement but asked, ” Did you check this in the dictionary?” I told her I had, but decided to look in on the matter further. Much to my embarassment I find that “entitled” is correct!
    I agree it seems to be more prevalent in England. Not so surprising.

    I will now go forth and multiply with wild abandon my use of the word ” entitlement” !

    Question:

    Does this mean that the word “titled”, now gaining momentum in America, is also correct and that these words are in essence, synonymous? And that it is simply a matter of preference? Or is it just plain wrong?

    Thank you for this enlightening discussion.

    Moral of the story:
    Writers do not, in fact, know everything!

  • Renee Williams

    I ended up on this forum seeking clarification. I have always used “entitled” (old school), and saw “titled” and thought it was just another bastardization (while knowing I’m not perfect). After reading your postings, I will continue with my current usage, and forgive any other. What I CAN’T forgive is the obnoxious and grammatically incorrect line that is used on telephone hold messages WORLDWIDE: “… your call will be answered in the order it was received”. WTF??? Excuse me, where’s the “in which”? That makes no sense, and it royally pisses me off. Are all of you Grammar Nazis with me? Or how about the ‘apostrophe s’ in plural’s <— see what I did there? And I'm still not sure whether or not my car is 'ensured'. Thanks for listening — er, reading (and understanding, I'll wager).

  • Bill

    Both words are correct. Some people like to use “titled.” Other people like to use “entitled.” Both have been used for a long, long time and all the dictionaries I’ve checked say that both are OK.

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