I am a bit confused about the proper abbreviation of Doctor of Philosophy. I sometimes read that this person obtained his D.Phil from X University, while someone else obtained his PhD from Y University. According to Wikipidia:

The University of Oxford also abbreviates their Doctor of Philosophy degree as DPhil but in other respects is equivalent to a PhD.

Is it up to me to decide what abbreviation to use?


3 Answers 3


The awarding institution determines the abbreviation*; someone made a Doctor of Philosophy at Oxford is a DPhil, someone made a Doctor of Philosophy at Cambridge is a PhD, and someone made a Doctor of Philosophy at a university in Austria is a Dr.phil. (before the name, not after).

*At the time awarded, as pointed out in another answer.

Addendum: As Jack Orion points out, the abbreviation is of the Latin doctor philosophiae, which is why appears both ways around (Latin is more flexible in its word order than English). Many other degree abbreviations make their Latin origin more obvious (e.g. the MLitt for 'master of letters', magister litterarum; the LLB for 'batchelor of laws', legium baccalaureatus, with conventional doubling of the 'L' to indicate the plural).

  • 9
    Nonsense - only Oprah makes Dr. Phils. ba dum bum
    – corsiKa
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 17:52
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    Also note that even those of us who went only to Oxford (and so would have a DPhil if anything) will use "PhD" to mean a doctorate from an unspecified university. Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 23:07

Neither D. Phil. nor Ph. D. are abbreviations for 'Doctor of Philosophy', but for 'Doctor Philosophiae' or 'Philosophiae Doctor' respectively. Sorry to be pedantic, but when this is realised it becomes easier to understand why the Ph. D. abbreviation exists at all.

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    Welcome Jack! This is a great, and very useful clarification, but is not really an answer to the question. Maybe leave something something like this as a comment next time?
    – mako
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 19:31
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    I think this is an answer. If you point to a banana and ask me if it is an apple or an orange, I would answer your question by saying "Neither, it's a banana."
    – Nobody
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 2:55
  • "Doctor of Philosophy" and "Philosophy Doctor" are both valid translations for both of the Latin word arrangements. This is not a helpful answer.
    – user23776
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 7:28

No - it depends on the degree you were awarded.

Most universities offer PhD degrees, with a smaller subset (usually UK red-brick universities & Oxford) that offer DPhils. Some of the 'new' universities of the late 60s-early 70s used to offer DPhils. I was awarded a DPhil at Ulster, but subsequent to this, they switched to awarding PhDs.


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