Saint (abbreviation)

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The title Saint, important throughout Europe and all Christian cultures, can be abbreviated, normally in English to St; some groups, notably Roman Catholics, use the simplest - S. Disagreement exists about the punctuation of both of these. AWE's advice is not to use a full stop after St or S, where it avoids the possibility of ambiguity: before a name, S. can be read as an initial letter for a forename.

Usage is not only changing, but House Rules vary between publishers, the preferences of different academics or academic departments, and so on. OUP, for example, has changed its practice: Hart's Rules said in 1967 s.v. 'Abbreviations and contractions': "For Saint use St. generally, but S. if this is the author's consistent preference; both with full points [= full stops]"; in 1994, the Oxford Guide to English Usage had s.v. abbreviations: "...No point is used: ...Dr, Revd, Mr, Mrs, Ms, ... St ...". Burchfield's Fowler (1996) says "St (without point) or S. are now the customary abbreviations. Pl[ural] Sts or SS (no points)."

Burchfield adds the useful note that, in indexes and other alphabetizations, all references to saints should be standardized under Saint, not St

So whatever AWE suggests, you should be careful to consult the prejudices of those who are likely to read your work critically. If your department tells you that it prefers the full stop, it would be foolish not to use it. Otherwise, there is no single universal rule - except that whatever usage you settle on, you should be consistent.

Other abbreviations include the plural

  • SS, for 'Saints' (not to be confused with 'Steam Ship', Social Security, Secret Service nor Schutzstaffel, the Nazi German internal security 'private' army used for the Holocaust;
  • Ste, for sainte, the feminine French form

See also Punctuation of abbreviations.