What is an OBE and what does it stand for? | The Sun

OBE is one of the highest honours that can be gifted by someone within the Commonwealth.

Many well-known faces have been awarded this over the years, but what is an OBE and what is its significance?

What is an OBE?

An OBE is a British honour awarded by the King to recognise extraordinary contributions to the country and the impact of their work, either locally or nationally.

It is the second-highest ranking in the Order of the British Empire honours after the CBE (Commander) and sits above the MBE (Member). 

King George V created the Orders of the British Empire during World War One in 1917 to honour the efforts of civilians and servicemen in non-combat roles.

They are now awarded to civilians twice a year – at New Year and on the King's official birthday.


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The King’s first Honours List was published by the Cabinet Office in New Year 2023.

What does OBE stand for?

OBE stands for Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

The OBE is generally given to people who have made a major contribution to their line of work, or whose work has gained national prominence.

What does an OBE entitle you to?

The OBE does not bestow any special legal entitlement or power.

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Recipients are entitled to put the letters OBE after their name and enjoy the prestige and possible raised profile this brings.

Recipients are also entitled to attend an investiture ceremony within six months of receiving the honour.

Here they will formally receive their insignia from the King or another senior royal, such as Princess Anne or Prince William.

Actress Kiera Knightly, actor Eddie Redmayne, actress Naomie Harris, both David and Victoria Beckham are some of the celebrities who have been given this honour.

How do you address an OBE?

The OBE is known as a ‘post nominal’ award, therefore it does not carry a title like Sir or Dame which should be used in front of the name.

This is reserved for those who are appointed Knights or Dames.  

For those with an OBE, you address them like any other person.

Can you nominate someone for an OBE?

Yes, anyone can nominate anyone for an OBE by visiting the Cabinet Office website and filling in an application form.

Every nomination is different but it’s important that you tell the story of what your candidate has done that is extraordinary.

In your nomination, you must describe your candidate’s achievements, show what impact they had, demonstrate how they made a difference, describe what obstacles they have overcome and demonstrate how they have gone the extra mile.

You cannot nominate yourself and you cannot choose what type of award a person is nominated for as this is determined during the selection process.

The application is submitted to the Honours and Appointments Secretariat.

A special committee will then decide who gets the honours and what type they will receive.

It then goes to the prime minister before the King has the final say.

Can non-British citizens get an OBE?

You must be a British national or a citizen of the Commonwealth countries to receive the OBE.

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However, the King can grant an honorary award such as the OBE to foreign nationals.

These are nominated by the Foreign Office, which has responsibility for the Diplomatic Service and Overseas List.

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