The One Word You Need Permission to Use in the United Kingdom

Hint: It has to do with a certain celebrated family…

Union flags at Buckingham PalacePhoto: ShutterStock

As any Anglophile knows, while the British royal family enjoys worldwide stardom and some seriously awesome perks, they don’t actually have much in the way of governing power. Yet it’s thanks to them that people in the United Kingdom aren’t allowed to use a certain word willy-nilly—a word that describes them, to be precise. In the United Kingdom, you need special permission to use the word “royal” in certain contexts. (Here’s the real difference between Great Britain and the United Kingdom.)

Of course, Brits are allowed to use the word “royal” in daily conversation; the monarchy certainly isn’t going to forbid their subjects from speaking about them. But it’s when citizens want to name something after royalty that this unusual stipulation comes into play. If someone wants to use the words “royal” or “royalty” in the name of a business, company, or product, they have to seek permission first. According to, the words are considered “sensitive” because they might mislead the public by suggesting an association with the capital-R royals. (In case you were wondering, this is how much each member of the royal family is actually worth.)

And “royal” isn’t the only monarch-themed moniker that you can’t just slap up on your building. If you live in the United Kingdom, you must request permission to use “King,” “Queen,” “Prince/Princess,” “Duke/Duchess,” and “His/Her Majesty” in a business context as well. To get such permission, you have to send an application to the Cabinet Office in London. You must include why you want to use the word, evidence if that word is your last name, and details if your business actually is connected to the royals or the government. (Unlike this curious practice, these 10 myths about the royal family are totally false.)

According to an official document from the United Kingdom’s registrar of companies, though, the rules can be bent in cases of “occasional events of national importance.” After all, it’s hard to sell souvenirs for, say, a royal wedding when you’re not allowed to put “royal” on products. Next, learn the words you’ll never, ever hear the royal family say.


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