A friend of mine is defending his PhD thesis in the Netherlands this week.

It is a custom to formally address them directly after the defense ceremony, where we use the Dutch term "welzeeredelgeleerde heer", which is something like 'very honourable well-learned gentleman' in Dutch and it very precisely corresponds to the title of PhD.

However, this friend was born and raised in Mexico, and I would like to also address him in Spanish. I have asked several native Spanish speakers (both inside and outside of academia), but nobody seems to know the correct translation of this terminology.

Does anyone happen to know this trivia?

  • 2
    I don't think what you actually want is a translation of that terminology, but rather to know the customs of addressing PhDs in Mexico. It's possible there is no equivalent to that long title in Spanish; there certainly isn't in modern English. If you addressed me as a "very honorable well-learned gentleman" I would assume you were being sarcastic.
    – Bryan Krause
    May 30, 2017 at 22:27
  • I know nothing of Mexican customs, but for this American PhD I found the Dutch defense ceremonies (which were great fun to be on the committee for) certainly more 'ceremonial' than American. At best I think I got a 'Whats up Doc?' at the end from my friends, and then we went to dinner...
    – Jon Custer
    May 30, 2017 at 23:28
  • @BryanKrause There is also no equivalent in modern Dutch (beyond "Dr."); it is archaic and its use is purely ceremonial nowadays. The custom to use it congratulatory after the ceremony could even be exclusive to the university or department of OP's friend, it certainly doesn't happen where I'm at.
    – J. Doe
    May 31, 2017 at 12:30
  • @J.Doe Got it - yeah I would say in the US even just "doctor" fulfills the same role among friends - people will say it to you immediately after your defense and you expect them never to say it again, the only exceptions being formal correspondence and undergraduates.
    – Bryan Krause
    May 31, 2017 at 15:13
  • Thanks for the input. It is indeed very much related to the ceremony, which is different amongst different universities in Holland, and Leiden University is known to be one of the most archaic. If you would address people like this outside of the ceremony, it is generally sarcastic, although it is used in formal writing as well. May 31, 2017 at 22:52

2 Answers 2


I am a mexican, I dont think we use anything other than:

"Doctor" + Lastname

or if you want to use "very honourable well-learned gentleman"

Honorable y muy sabio caballero

  • I don't think anywhere in the Spanish speaking world there's a phrase like that even at a place fixated on customs/traditions for the defense like Salamanca. As you said, just "doctor(a) X", with the most common congratulatory comment being simply felicitaciones/felicidades. (You may want to give the feminine form of honorable y muy sabia dama too even though the OP specified a male student) May 31, 2017 at 1:50
  • Sabio is good! May 31, 2017 at 3:34
  • @guifa I was given the translated version of what he wanted to say, but yes its not commonly used.
    – luisluix
    Jun 1, 2017 at 15:26
  • 1
    @luisluix oh I wasn't trying to criticize your answer, quote the opposite. Quise expresar que no existe una fórmula especial aparte de los saludos normales, tal y como dices para Méjico, pero también es el mismo caso en —que sepa yo— el resto del mundo hispanohablante. Caso hubiese una, tendría que ser en las antiguas del Perú, Méjico o España y nunca he escuchado nada parecido. Jun 1, 2017 at 20:58

It sounds like it would give you pleasure and satisfaction to lay it on thick for this special occasion. I think it would probably please your friend, too! I will suggest something pompous and hopefully lovely for you. I'm not getting this from tradition, but I think it will work for your purposes. (If you want to see some votes to guide you, you could ask that your question be migrated to Spanish SE.) Let's suppose your friend's name is Rafael Pérez Hernández.

Muy buenas tardes a todos. [That's to get people's attention and attune their ears so they'll understand that you have switched to Spanish.] Felicidades al muy estimado y honorable Doctor Rafael Pérez Hernández.

It means: Good afternoon, everyone. Congratulations to the admired and honorable Dr. Rafael Pérez Hernández.


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