Honour

Alexander Hamilton defends his honour by accepting Aaron Burr's challenge.

Honour (or honor in American English; either spelling in Canadian English)[1] is the idea of a bond between an individual and a society as a quality of a person that is both of social teaching and of personal ethos, that manifests itself as a code of conduct, and has various elements such as valor, chivalry, honesty, and compassion. It is an abstract concept entailing a perceived quality of worthiness and respectability that affects both the social standing and the self-evaluation of an individual or institution such as a family, school, regiment or nation. Accordingly, individuals (or institutions) are assigned worth and stature based on the harmony of their actions with a specific code of honour, and the moral code of the society at large.

Samuel Johnson, in his A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), defined honour as having several senses, the first of which was "nobility of soul, magnanimity, and a scorn of meanness".This sort of honour derives from the perceived virtuous conduct and personal integrity of the person endowed with it. On the other hand, Johnson also defined honour in relationship to "reputation" and "fame"; to "privileges of rank or birth", and as "respect" of the kind which "places an individual socially and determines his right to precedence". This sort of honour is often not so much a function of moral or ethical excellence, as it is a consequence of power. Finally, with respect to sexuality, honour has traditionally been associated with (or identical to) "chastity" or "virginity", or in case of married men and women, "fidelity". Some have argued that honour should be seen more as a rhetoric, or set of possible actions, than as a code.

Social context

Honour as a code of behaviour defines the duties of an individual within a social group. Margaret Visser observes that in an honour-based society "a person is what he or she is in the eyes of other people".[2] A code of honour differs from a legal code, also socially defined and concerned with justice, in that honour remains implicit rather than explicit and objectified.

One can distinguish honour from dignity, which Wordsworth assessed as measured against an individual's conscience[3] rather than against the judgement of a community. Compare also the sociological concept of "face".

In the early medieval period, a lord's or lady's honour was the group of manors or lands he or she held. "The word was first used indicating an estate which gave its holder dignity and status."[4] For a person to say "on my honour" was not just an affirmation of his or her integrity and rank, but the veracity behind that phrase meant he or she was willing to offer up estates as pledge and guarantee.

The concept of honour appears to have declined in importance in the modern West; conscience has replaced it[5] in the individual context, and the rule of law (with the rights and duties defined therein) has taken over in a social context. Popular stereotypes would have it surviving more definitively in more tradition-bound cultures (e.g. Pashtun, Southern Italian, Polish, Persian, Turkish, Arab, Iberian, "Old South" or Dixie) in a perception akin to Orientalism. Feudal or other agrarian societies, which focus upon land use and land ownership, may tend to "honour" more than do contemporary industrial societies. Note that Saint Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033 – 1109) in Cur Deus Homo extended the concept of honour from his own feudal society to postulate God's honour.[6]

An emphasis on the importance of honour exists in such traditional institutions as the military (serving officers may conduct a court of honour) and in organisations with a military ethos, such as Scouting organisations (which also feature "Courts of Honour"[7]).

Honour in the case of sexuality frequently relates, historically, to fidelity: preservation of "honour" equates primarily to maintenance of the virginity of singles and to the exclusive monogamy of the remainder of the population. Further conceptions of this type of honour vary widely between cultures; some cultures regard honour killings of (mostly female) members of one's own family as justified if the individuals have "defiled the family's honour" by marrying against the family's wishes, or even by becoming the victims of rape. Western observers generally see these honour killings as a way of men using the culture of honour to control female sexuality.[8]

Skinners, executioners, grave-diggers, shepherds, barber-surgeons, millers, linen-weavers, sow-gelders, latrine-cleaners, and bailiffs and their families were among the "dishonourable people" (unehrliche Leute) in early modern German society.[9]

Other Languages
العربية: شرف
asturianu: Honor
azərbaycanca: Şərəf
беларуская: Анорэ
བོད་ཡིག: མཚན་སྙན།
català: Honor
čeština: Čest
chiShona: Ruremekedzo
dansk: Ære
Deutsch: Ehre
eesti: Au
español: Honor
Esperanto: Honoro
euskara: Ohore
فارسی: شرف
français: Honneur
galego: Honra
한국어: 명예
हिन्दी: सम्मान
hrvatski: Čast
Ido: Honoro
íslenska: Heiður
italiano: Onore
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಗೌರವ
Kreyòl ayisyen: Lonè
Latina: Honos
lietuvių: Garbė
Nederlands: Eer
日本語: 名誉
norsk: Ære
norsk nynorsk: Ære
português: Honra
română: Onoare
русский: Честь
sicilianu: Disonuri
Simple English: Honour
slovenčina: Česť
српски / srpski: Čast
suomi: Kunnia
svenska: Heder
татарча/tatarça: Намус
українська: Честь
žemaitėška: Guoda
中文: 名譽