From Old High German hēriro, hērro, the comparative form of hēr (“noble, venerable”) (German hehr), by analogy with Latin senior (“elder”). Cognate with Dutch heer, Swedish herre, compare also herrschen (“to rule”). The Old High German word originally meant "grey, grey-haired", and descends from Proto-Germanic *hairaz (“grey”), making it cognate with Old English hār (English hoar), Old Norse hárr.
- Mr., mister, sir
- Meine Damen und Herren = Ladies and gentlemen
- master, lord, generally denotes that somebody has control over something, either in a generic or in a regal sense
- Herr der Lage sein ('to be master of the situation'; a phrase meaning that somebody is able to cope with something)
- Weil die Tiere auf seinen Wink reagieren, nennt man ihn den Herren der Wölfe. ('Because the animals react on his wink, he is called lord of the wolves.')
- Wer ist Herr dieser Landen? Der Graf von Karabas. ('Who is the ruler/owner of these lands? The Count of Karabas.' From Der gestiefelte Kater, 'The Booted Tomcat'.)
- Lord, God
- Das Haus des Herrn = The House of God
- Very often used as a title of respect that is not translated into English or replaced with Sir:
- Herr Schmidt = Mr. Schmidt; but:
- Herr Doktor von Braun = Dr. von Braun
- Herr Professor = Dr. (Ph.D.); professor
- Jawohl, Herr Oberst! = Yes, sir! (lit.: 'Yes, Mr. Colonel.' Because Herr already is a respectful form of address, adding a term like 'sir' is unnecessary)
- Mein Herr? Sie haben ihre Uhr verloren. = Sir? You've lost your watch. (standard usage between strangers)
- After supper Frau Brechenmacher packed four of the five babies to bed, allowing Rosa to stay with her and help to polish the buttons of Herr Brechenmacher's uniform. - "Frau Brechenmaster Attends A Wedding", from "Selected Short Stories" by Katherine Mansfield (first published in 1910)
- Omitting "Herr" or the female form "Frau" when talking about somebody using his last name shows disrespect for the person, especially when one knows this person personally. In general, the Herr is only left out when talking about a person nobody of the present knows personally or has any connection to, for example when recounting the deeds of historical or fictional persons or celebrities.
- For example, a normal German would say to his friends: 'Merkel will die Steuern erhöhen.' (Merkel wants to raise taxes.)
- In a political TV discussion on the other hand, where a guest or the general situation might have connection to the sphere of the chancellor, a guest would rather say: 'Frau Merkel will die Steuern erhöhen.' (Mrs. Merkel wants to raise the taxes.) Another example are pupils or working people, which usually refer to teachers/colleagues with Herr in front of the name, when talking among each other, even when the teacher/colleague is disliked:
- 'Meinen Sie nicht auch, dass Herr Johnson der größte Idiot ist, den wir jemals hatten?' (Don't you think that (Mr.) Johnson is the biggest idiot we've ever had?)
- Contrary to English 'Don't you think that Mr. Johnson...', the Herr does not denote that Johnson is in a higher position than the talking person or is somebody from outside the usual workspace.
- In Bavaria it is not uncommon that people are referred to with the last name and the personal Du (you, singular) instead of the formal Sie. In this case the Herr is omitted.