My question comes from the 1987 film The Princess Bride.

Is the name "The Dread Pirate Roberts" a full name?

I keep wanting to think of it as ..."The dreaded Pirate Roberts" as opposed to thinking Dread is the first name one would use to call for Him.

I'm unsure if Dread is his first name (seriously doubt that) or it's just a nickname to follow a title of employment (Pirate)following a last name(Roberts).

  • 5
    He's "The Dread Pirate, Roberts". – Valorum Jan 11 '17 at 17:14
  • 1
    Yeah, I just got the book yesterday but the comma made it clear how it's supposed to be taken. Just wasn't absolutely sure. – user76351 Jan 11 '17 at 17:24
  • 6
    It's explained in detail in the unabridged edition. – Buzz Jan 11 '17 at 17:25
  • 7
    tough to find the original S. Morgenstern unabridged but it's worth it if you really want to dig into the details. His world building is second only to Tolkien ;) – NKCampbell Jan 11 '17 at 18:21
  • 1
    @NKCampbell The fact that I believed in the existence of an unabridged version for a long time (months? years?) is the precise reason I never actually got around to reading the actual novel. Or at least, I never sat down to read it cover-to-cover; I have read quite a lot of it simply by opening it to random parts over the years. – Kyle Strand Jan 11 '17 at 22:10

It's not a name as such, more a description....essentially a pseudonym.

He's (or rather a series of people are) actually, Captain Roberts...who's a Pirate and Dreaded.

"The Dread" is an archaic / non-standard form of saying "The Dreaded".

Westley explains that there have been a series of people who inherited the pseudonym.

"Well, Roberts had grown so rich, he wanted to retire. He took me to his cabin and he told me his secret. 'I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts', he said. 'My name is Ryan; I inherited the ship from the previous Dread Pirate Roberts, just as you will inherit it from me. The man I inherited it from is not the real Dread Pirate Roberts either. His name was Cummerbund. The real Roberts has been retired fifteen years and living like a king in Patagonia."

  • 2
    Sniped my answer. +1. "Dread" as an adjective isn't actually archaic in all senses (and your Dictionary.com link doesn't say it's archaic for either sense), although I suspect "dreaded" is more common. And as part of the epithet "The Dread Pirate" it certainly sounds more ominous. – Dranon Jan 11 '17 at 17:21
  • 1
    Cummberbund, Benedict Cummberbund. – Zikato Jan 11 '17 at 22:33
  • 1
    I would say it's a title. The Dread Pirate. That's what he is. His name is Roberts. – DCShannon Jan 12 '17 at 0:47

I think it's a nickname / title, like The Scourge of God Attila or Richard the Lionheart.

  • Or the pirate Blackbeard (i.e. Edward Teach). I think "Dread Pirate" got absorbed into the nickname to make clear that it wasn't talking about just any pirate that might happen to be named Roberts. – supercat Jan 11 '17 at 22:42
  • I think the word you're looking for is epithet, which Merriam-Webster defines as "a characterizing word or phrase accompanying or occurring in place of the name of a person or thing". In fact, Dictionary.com gives "Richard the Lion-Hearted" as one of its examples. – ruakh Jan 11 '17 at 23:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy