My dentist is Dr. Wang and my physician is Dr. O'Connor but I also refer to my professor as Dr.

Are these the same titles? Did they all achieve what it took to get a Dr. title?

  • This isn't an exact duplicate of the question I linked to, but most of the answers to this question are contained there. – Bill Barth Jun 12 '15 at 1:15

While all those titles share the same linguistic roots, obviously, the meaning is somewhat different. When referring to a Ph.D., term doctor is used in the context of general knowledge acquisition. That is why the full title is doctor of philosophy, where philosophy implies "love of wisdom". On the other hand, a medical doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic medicine (D.O.) title or one of dental doctor titles refers to a specialist in one or more areas of medicine. A relatively popular alternative term for medical doctor is physician, which some people might confuse with with physicist. The origins of the word "physician" and its relation to the word "doctor" are discusses in this interesting article in Science Friday.

The original meaning of the word "doctor" as "license to teach" has likely been transferred to the medicine knowledge domain IMHO due to the important role of one of the cornerstones of science that medicine played at that particular time period and place (medieval Europe). You may also find additional interesting information in this related discussion on StackExchange.


These "doctors" typically all took at least eight years of college work (four undergraduate, four graduate) to get their degrees. In the case of medical doctors, there was usually a long internship involved, although PhDs often take internships or teaching positions alongside their degree work.

Most doctors are PhD's, (doctors of philosophy) with a lot of academic knowledge, while medical doctors (M.D.s or D.O.s) have loads of "work experience" in addition to their academic credentials.

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