A post I wrote on Saturday contained the following statement:

Yesterday I wrote about reading a book entitled Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.

A reader by the name of “Realist” left the following comment:

“was reading a book TITLED…” not entitled. Two different words.

Really? I’ve seen the word “entitled” used as I used it throughout my life. Typically, I’m careful about the words I use. Occasionally typos happen, and I always go back and correct them when I see them. It aggravates me to see careless grammar, spelling and word choice in any writing. However, I never questioned my use of “entitled” in that context.

Being a perfectionist, as soon as I read Realist’s comment, I began searching for clarification on the proper use of the word “entitled. My first line of investigation was to email my two older “English major” sisters. A quick reply from one reminded me of the comment. Here’s her entire response:

The correct word is titled.

Thanks, but . . . no explanation or discussion. Just that 5-word statement. I wanted an explanation or SOMETHING to back up why “titled” is the correct word and why “entitled” is not. So I went to my Cotillion sisters who provided a variety of opinions and some online resources.

Dictionary.com has the following:

en·ti·tle (n-ttl) Pronunciation Key Audio pronunciation of [P]
tr.v. en·ti·tled, en·ti·tling, en·ti·tles

  1. To give a name or title to.
  2. To furnish with a right or claim to something: The coupon entitles the bearer to a 25 percent savings. Every citizen is entitled to equal protection under the law.

That didn’t help much with my particular question, but I kept looking. I wanted examples – proof. Below that definition, they had the following from WordNet.

adj 1: qualified for by right according to law; “we are all entitled to equal protection under the law” 2: given a title or identifying name; “the book entitled `A Tale of Two Cities’ [emphasis mine]

Cha-CHING! Answer.com also confirmed the use of “entitled” as I had used it.


  1. To give a name or title to: baptize, call, christen, denominate, designate, dub, name, style, term, title. See specific/general, words.
  2. To give authority to: accredit, authorize, commission, empower, enable, license, qualify. See allow/prevent.

The verb entitle has 3 meanings:

Meaning #1:give the right to
Meaning #2: give a title to
title [emphasis mine again]
Meaning #3: give a title to someone; make someone a member of the nobility
Synonyms: ennoble, gentle

Notice that “title” is listed as a synonym. The conclusion: Apparently, I can write “I read a book entitled Blah-Blah-Blah” and be completely correct in my use of the word “entitled.” SO THERE!

Tiara-Tip to Beth at MVRWC for taking the time to help me research this vastly unimportant word choice.

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10 Responses to “Titled or Entitled?”

  1. LordNazh Says:

    Reading the definitions you provided, it seems to me that the person actually naming a piece of work would be the one to entitle it. Since the book is already named, I think you should use titled instead of entitle (to name).

  2. Jane Says:

    Good for you!!! I know you would have gladly accepted it if you had been proven to be incorrect but doesn’t it feel good to be proven RIGHT!!!!????

  3. carol Says:

    LordNazh (corrected) – using “entitled” doesn’t imply that “I” am the one naming it. I am merely acknowledging the name the author gave it. Goodness! picky, picky!  -)

    From what I can discern from the definitions, I could have used “titled” or “entitled” in the given example, and both would have been correct.  I get the feeling, though, that hard-core word nazis feel that “titled” is THE correct word in that context.

  4. Lord Nazh Says:

    Nazh not nahz ) (picky)

    I understand what you are reading the definition as, what I’m reading it as: To entitle = to name; titled = already named.

    It’s your fight, so you can win simply by going with your reading, I’m just pointing out what someone who has no bearing on the discussion thinks.

    The definitions are fuzzy at best, so the argument could go either way, and I do like to argue heh

  5. Charles Pyott Says:

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with employing “entitled” to refer to/introduce a title. I’m genuinely bemused people have such strong objections to it. “Entitled” and “titled” are simply alternate/interchangeable terms. Personally, I tend to prefer “entitled,” strictly from a phonetic/aesthetic point of view. To my (admittedly subjective) ear, “titled” simply sounds a little too abrupt, in comparison. For me, the use of “entitled” provides a slightly nicer ‘rhythm’ or flow to the sentence.

    The other minor but potentially desirable aspect of “entitled” is that it actually alludes to the act of entitling, which some people may in fact prefer. One might argue this places a marginally greater emphasis on the title, as a result (rather than the more disassociated, stand-alone alternative of “titled”).

    My question about both terms is: Is it ever an acceptable alternative to include a COMMA after the term? Or is it only ever correct to omit the comma? A very quick look at the internet didn’t provide me with a definitive answer.

    e.g., “… a book entitled ‘The Last Revolution'” vs. “… a book entitled, ‘The Last Revolution'”

    TMS: I would say a comma wouldn’t be used before the title of the book. I said “entitled” my whole life until I used it immediately before I wrote this post, and someone questioned it. I agree with you – either way is fine.

  6. SamBlob Says:

    I believe I shall check Webster’s Dictionary (definitive Yank reference) and the Oxford English Dictionary (definitive Brit reference) before I accept this.

  7. ruth Says:

    You are my precious daughter and i love you dearly and forever. But you are also a good and bright and interesting person! I have been reading your blog this afternoon…

  8. Steve Says:

    Well if you used the word you’re hole life, then you should continue. Those grammar people – where do they get there ideas? Who says their has to be one set of rules for talking and righting anyway? BTW, why do so many people use the word ‘bring’ when they mean ‘take’?

  9. Dave Says:

    Grammar Trap: titled vs. entitled

    Example: Hugh Jim Bissell is giving a talk entitled, “What’s Wrong with This Sentence?”

    You’ve read sentences like this a million times, but “entitled” is the wrong word choice.

    Most often, “entitled” means one has a right or claim to something. As in, “Americans are entitled to free (albeit grammatically warped) speech.”

    And yes, “entitle” can mean to give a title to something, but does not refer to the title itself. As in, “The esteemed Mr. Bissell entitled his talk after he wrote it. It’s titled, ‘What’s Wrong with This Sentence?'”

    Or entitle can mean to confer a title on a person. As in, “The queen entitled Sir Loin of Beef at a state dinner.”

    In other words, do not use “entitled” before the name of a book, lecture, article, diary entry, speech, poem, rodeo, etc.

    If you must, use “titled.”

    So our original example should be corrected to: Hugh Jim Bissell is giving a talk titled, “What’s Wrong with This Sentence?”

    Better yet, avoid the extra wordiness: Hugh Jim Bissell is giving a talk, “What’s Wrong with This Sentence?”

    Kevin Leigh Smith, kevlsmith@purdue.edu

    Do you have a Grammar Trap idea? Do you want On Target to cover a topic that interests you? E-mail your ideas to Kevin Leigh Smith


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