Doctor of Divinity (D.D. or DD, Divinitatis Doctor in Latin) is an advanced academic degree in divinity. Historically, it identified one who had been licensed by a university to teach Christian theology or related religious subjects.
In the United Kingdom, Doctor of Divinity has traditionally been the highest doctorate granted by universities, usually conferred upon a religious scholar of standing and distinction. In the traditional descending order of seniority, the Doctor of Divinity degree is followed by Doctor of Laws (or Doctor of Civil Law) for law, Doctor of Medicine for medicine, Doctor of Letters for letters, Doctor of Science for science, and Doctor of Music for music. The high status of the Doctor of Divinity qualification in British universities owed to their traditional affiliation with the Christian church. As universities became increasingly secular in the 20th century, the Doctor of Divinity degree lost much of its pre-eminence in practice, though officially it is still the most senior qualification at the English universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham, as well as at the Scottish universities of St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh.
In the United States the Doctor of Divinity is usually awarded as an honorary degree. There is no system of "higher doctorates" in the U.S., so the highest earned degrees in academic Theology are the Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Theology or Doctor of Sacred Theology. Professional degrees in applied Theology include the Doctor of Biblical Studies, Doctor of Practical Theology and the highest degree--the Doctor of Ministry.
In more recent times a Doctor of Divinity degree is usually granted as an honorary doctorate upon a distinguished individual whose work has been connected with religion. In most English-speaking universities a graduate student who has completed a doctoral course of study and research in religion will usually receive a Doctor of Philosophy or a Doctor of Theology rather than a Doctor of Divinity. A number of universities, however, still confer the Doctor of Divinity, upon supplication, in recognition of the scholarly contributions to theology made by a person's published work. An early example was the Reverend John Andrews, D.D. (4th Provost of the University of Pennsylvania).
In another instance of Doctor of Divinity being used in literature for humorous purposes, Kurt Vonnegut's novel Mother Night features the character of a deranged neo-Nazi dentist, the Rev. Dr. Lionel Jones, D.D.S., D.D. In William Faulkner's novel Light in August, the Rev. Hightower's designation as a "D.D." is said by the townspeople to mean "done damned". Also, Oscar Wilde's celebrated stage comedy The Importance of Being Earnest features the character Rev. Canon Frederick Chasuble, D.D.
An additional famous occurrence is in Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera The Pirates of Penzance, nearing the end of Act I, where Major-General Stanley's daughters are captured by the clumsy corsairs: