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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51 Responses to “Titled versus Entitled”

  • 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…

  • 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

  • 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’.

  • 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!)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Ann

    John, I think you trumped them all. Congrats!

  • 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.

  • 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 😉

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Jose Cano

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

  • 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'”.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • John

    Pretty much every dictionary disagrees with this article.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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