Master (form of address) for young boys.

When did this stop being used? I always thought that young boys should have letters addressed to Master John Smith, and that only over the age of 12, they can be addressed as mister.
You may think this is pedantic. I think it is ridiculous for institutions to send letters to my baby boy addressed to Mister Darcy Smith. He is 2 months old.

I thought any unmarried male was Master.

I don’t think it’s been taught in the US since I was ~ a third grader in 1967.

Here, the word is mostly associated with large fellows named Igor, hypnotized subjects in thrall to scowling dudes names Svengali, and politically objectionable conditions of servitude and oppression.

I always thought it a bit odd when my old aunt addressed Christmas cards to me in this manner. An even more ancient great-grandmother did the same as well. Definitely old fashioned, and I’ve never seen it as a choice on a webform.

I miss it now, though I’m firmly a Mister. (Not that I’ve been called that very much… yet)

I remember seeing this subject in places like Miss manners & Dear Abby columns (no cite availble). IIRC the proper use is until age 13, but I seem to remember another source saying age 10 & another age 18. But all of them seemed to agree that it was for a boy and not an adult male.

I used to go to school with a family who’s last name was Bator. What do you think we called the boys?

I’m with butler1850 – it seems to have fallen from use (by everyone but aunts of a certain age) at around the time my bank stopped addressing their letters to me as “W. Not, Esq.”; ie when letters began to be addressed by a database rather than a person.


In a day when standards of etiquette were set forth, it was part of the rite of passage from boyhood to adolescence, that you were “Master NN” until puberty and “Mister NN” afterwards. Of course, this was also a time when the proper salutation for a woman depended on whether she had entered “her proper role as a woman” by marrying or not.

It phased out along with the Miss/Mrs. distinction as mandatory. Whether it was wise to eliminate that transition for males remains to be seen.

“Master” is still used in the UK on paediatric medical notes. Changes to Mr at around 18-21 years old.

Hey, Bator Bator?

I’ve always associated “Master” with the exaggerated obsequiousness of the class differential in Britain, in which a grown servant must pay homage to a young brat because of his parents’ standing.

“Master” is a term that should never be used in America, no matter at what age. It doesn’t matter that there’s not a good substitute for it. There’s no good substitute word for boyfriend or girlfriend when it comes to 80-year-olds living together, either, but everybody agrees that it’s better to flounder for words than to use ones that are so obviously wrong.

The gentleman will delighted to meet you. His name is Jack Brown. Jack, Master Bates!

Or in the alternative, those families and persons who prefer the term could continue doing so, since nothing bad is actually known to result.

A slight aside…

In my family as a child, when refering to married, older women outside of the family, you either used:

Mrs. <lastname>
Miss. <firstname>

Depending on familiarity of course.

For boys: Com-Bator
For girls: De-Bator
Or: re-bator
That’s enough.

Sorry. I happen to think that perpetuation of insidious and pernicious class divisiveness is something bad. I think that England and other European countries are paying a huge price internally for centuries of class separation, and the lack of a formal aristocracy is the best thing that ever happened to the U.S.

Does calling a child “Master” rise to this level? Perhaps not. But there are many odious words and phrases that are not harmful when taken individually, but collectively and over time create fissures totally unnecessarily. So why encourage their use at all?

What evidence do you have that your personal opinion about the connotations of the word has anything to do with its usage in the real world?

There used to be something called “polite society”, in which all persons deserved to be treated with respect. regardless of age, wealth, or social status.

Nonsense. Those in “polite society” did not treat those outside their class in terms of respect. Every page of history is replete with examples to the contrary. Only some propaganda put out by members of “polite society” might argue differently. If the young child of one of my ancestors ever met up with someone from “polite society” the odds of him being called “Master Exapno” were utterly negligible.

But heaven help my ancestors if they did not call the young child of someone in “polite society” by that term.

Now if only he was a pre-WWI German light cavalryman. Then he could be Uhlan Ulan Bator Bator!

As for “Master”… my sister, who’s a protocol geek, uses it for notes she addresses to our boys now and then (the oldest is just 10). I haven’t seen it used elsewhere these days, Emily Post be damned. Come to think of it, I remember being told that a particular Juvenile Court judge in this county used to refer to all of the boys brought before him as “Master [lastname].” That judge has long since retired and died, and with it the custom, at least in that court.