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The majestic plural (pluralis maiestatis in Latin) is the use of a plural pronoun to refer to a single person holding a high office, such as a monarch, bishop, pope, or university rector. It is also called the royal pronoun, the royal "we" or the Victorian "we". The more general word for the use of we to refer to oneself is nosism, from the Latin nos.[1] Its most common use denotes the excellence, power, and dignity of the person that speaks or writes.

In pluralis maiestatis a speaker refers to himself using a grammatical number other than the singular (i.e., in plural or, where attested, dual form). For example, the Basic Law of the Sultanate of Oman opens thus:

On the Issue of the Basic Law of the State We, Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman…[2]

Other instances of use:

  • We are not amused.Queen Victoria (in at least one account of this quotation, though, she was not speaking for herself alone, but for the ladies of the court.)[3]
  • In his abdication statement, Nicholas II of Russia uses the pluralis maiestatis liberally, as in "In agreement with the Imperial Duma, We have thought it well to renounce the Throne of the Russian Empire and to lay down the supreme power."[4]
  • United States Navy Admiral Hyman G. Rickover told a subordinate who used the royal we: "Three groups are permitted that usage: pregnant women, royalty, and schizophrenics. Which one are you?"[5]
  • Mark Twain once made a similar remark: "Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial 'we.'" [1]

Editorial we

editors may use we, in which case the practice is called editorial we.[1] The editor is presumed to be speaking on behalf of the publication.

Difference from other plurals

See this subsection on the "author's 'we'".

The majestic plural is distinct from the plural of modesty (pluralis modestiae) and the author's plural (pluralis auctoris) or the inclusion of readers or listeners, respectively, the latter often used in mathematics. For instance:

Let us calculate!Leibniz
We are thus led also to a definition of "time" in physics.Albert Einstein

Non-Western usage

The tradition of the royal we may also be traced to the Mughals of India and Sultans of Banu Abbas and Banu Umayyah. The "Royal We" is used to express the dignity or highest position either understood as strictly hierarchical or as referential to an alternate "higher" than ego identity.

There are many verses in the Qur'an where Allah speaks using the Arabic pronoun nahnu (meaning "we") or its associated suffix….”we” created, “we” sent down, etc.

See also




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