The Good Doctor [phrase origin]

Hi Everyone

Ever since my father-in-law pondered the question, I have searched desperately (and in vain) for the origin(s) of the phrase “the Good doctor”. Is it to do with the Gospel of Luke, who was a physician? Is it connected to (the good) Dr Jekyll as opposed to (the bad) Mr Hyde? I have, as yet, found no DEFINITIVE answer to explain the origin(s) of this very well-known phrase.

If anyone can help, I (and my father-in-law) would be most grateful.

Many thanks.

Neil Simon wrote the play “The Good Doctor” 40 years ago.

He may have, but the phrase goes back hundreds of years so it can’t have anything to do with the origin.

Google or Wikipedia should have been the first stop, because an answer is right there.



Third base!

And yet, the quote cited doesn’t actually use the phrase “the good doctor.” :dubious:

St.Luke is the “beloved physician” (named so by St.Paul). So it can’t be him.

Title edited to better indicate subject.

General Questions Moderator

Note that “good” as a general honorific was used a lot hundreds of years ago. “Good Sir.” “Good Wife” (which became “Goody”). Etc. It’s use today is more of a mild mocking form.

I would dispute the wikipedia article for the reasons given above, in particular of course it is not the phrase “the good doctor” which plainly is not a form of address while “Good night, good doctor” is.

One might as well attribute it to anyone who said “Dr. bart is a good doctor.”

While wikipedia idenitifes it as a cliche, I can bring to mind very few usages of the phrase - none in fact. Certainly searching google for it brings up the play and a new movie almost to the exclusion of other uses.

How does the OP see it as “a veery well known phrase”?

Just off the top of my head, I’ve frequently heard it applied to Isaac Asimov, Hunter S. Thompson, and The Doctor from Doctor Who. It’s common enough.

The Good Doctor" is also the standard epithet for Dr. Watson in the fan writings about the Holmes stories, although he is never referred to that way. Oddly, the phrase is used by Conan Doyle in The Hound of Baskervilles about Dr. Mortimer.

An ngrams search shows that it has been in fairly constant use since 1740, though that’s probably an artifact of the database since I can find a 1655 usage that is obviously in the same sense. Ngrams isn’t too good for earlier works.

“The good doctor,” like many literary allusions, may not be that familiar to today’s readers but it has, as I said, hundreds of years of history in literature.

Prof. Robert Crater rather archly refers to Dr. Leonard H. McCoy as “the good doctor” in the very first NBC-aired episode of Star Trek, “The Man Trap” (aired September 8, 1966).

When I saw the title of the thread, Isaac Asimov is the first person I thought of.

"Just off the top of my head, I’ve frequently heard it applied to Isaac Asimov, Hunter S. Thompson, and The Doctor from Doctor Who. It’s common enough. "

Actually no - being applied to three people as an honorific does not make a phrase “common enough” or indeed even a phrase.

I have indeed heard the fictional Dr Who referred to in this way, but hardly ever have read it connected to Asimov or Thompson. I read in fact that this was a self-claimed nick name for both of the latter.

Yes. When I see the phrase (capitalized), I first think of Dr. Asimov.

Just to be clear, people are giving examples of some famous people who had the phrase applied to them on a regular basis. They are not saying this is the only time the phrase is used. In fact, the phrase has been used by thousands for centuries, as the Google Books records show.

Your lack of personal awareness of the phrase means exactly nothing. To me, it’s an old and famous phrase, instantly recognizable. Our individual experiences don’t earn a vote each or cancel one another out. You may be familiar with a phrase I’m not. Only the research matters, and here the research is overwhelming.