What Is a Doctorate of Humane Letters?

The Doctor of Humane Letters degree is an honorary degree conferred by an institution of higher learning. It is not an earned academic or professional degree, and the honorees who receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree should not refer to themselves as “doctor.” The degree is abbreviated as either L.H.D., which stands for the Latin phrase “litterarum humanarum doctor,” or D.H.L.

Honorary degrees such as the D.H.L. are conferred upon scholars, inventors, artists, entrepreneurs and other leaders who have earned national or global reputations. Often, honorary degrees are conferred at commencement exercises, with the honoree giving the commencement address. When the degree is presented, the honoree is hooded just as the recipient of an earned Ph.D. would be. Honorary degrees are frequently bestowed at the end of a graduation ceremony to signify that the degree is the highest the university can grant. Honorary degrees such as the D.H.L. are never given in absentia.

While honorary degree holders may be addressed as “doctor” by the institution that awarded the degree, they should not generally be referred to as “doctor.” A recipient of a D.H.L. should not use the title “doctor” himself but may list the degree on his resume and may use the letters “D.H.L.” after his name.