The Meaning of OBE: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of OBE? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the abbreviation OBE, including its definition, usage, and more!

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What does the abbreviation OBE stand for?

According to BBC and Dictionary, the acronym  OBE stands for Order of the British Empire, or Office/Officer of the Order of the British Empire. This is one of a few types of medals that are given out to British citizens twice a year in the United Kingdom for those who have done outstanding work and service. A special committee decides who gets these honors. These decisions made by the committee are approved by the Prime Minister, and later, royals like Her Majesty the Queen. Other orders honor colonial officials or members of the armed forces. 

Some people have turned down their awards, such as Roald Dahl. People can also be stripped of their honor if they are disgraced or behave badly. There are a few different types of awards on the honours list. These include knights and dames, appointments to the Order of the British Empire and gallantry and bravery awards. People can be awarded or win different awards depending on what they have done. The awards, not in order of precedence, include the aforementioned OBE, the companion of honour award, knight, dame, CBE, MBE, and BEM.  The London Gazette lists these every year on the UK Government Queen’s official Birthday and New Year honours. You might see these acronyms on Facebook or Twitter.

A Companion of Honour award is given to those who have made a significant contribution to the arts, science, medicine or the government over a long period of time. This long-term award of outstanding achievement was founded in 1917 by George V and is given to 65 people per year. The people who are awarded this honor have the initials CP after their name and have made a great impact. A few famous people who have received this award in the past include Sir Winston Churchill, JK Rowling and Sir David Attenborough.

Knights and Dames are orders of chivalry that have been awarded since the medieval times. The honour of knighthood used to be awarded by the touch of a sword by the King or Queen. There are even depictions of Queen Elizabeth I knighting Sir Francis Drake on board the Golden Hind at Deptford in London from the year 1581. Men who are knighted are given the title Sir, while women receiving the honour are called Dame. Being knighted can occur for any exceptional achievement in any activity. Some other famous people who are knighted include Dame Julie Andrews or Sir Paul McCartney. You can see that Dame and Sir are placed before the forename.

CBE stands for Commander of the Order of the British Empire. This award was created by King George V, who created the Orders of the British Empire awards during World War I. This was in order to reward services to the First World War effort by people helping back in the UK, not those who were on the front line in the military. The CBE is the highest ranking Order of the British Empire award. These are awarded to people to recognize outstanding achievement that these people have made in their work.

An OBE is also an order of the British Empire award. This is the second highest ranking award, and stands for Officer of the Order of the British Empire. This is also awarded to people who have made a significant impact, or who have had a leading role in their field at a regional level or a national level. David Beckham has received an actual OBE.

Finally, there is an MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire. This is the third highest ranking Order of the British Empire award, behind OBE and CBE. This is also awarded to people who make a positive impact in their line of work.

Lastly, a BEM award stands for a British Empire Medal. This award was founded in 1917. BEMs are awarded to people who perform meritorious actions, and are given to civilians or military personnel. While this was discontinued in 1993, it was brought back by Prime Minister David Cameron twenty years later. Roughly 300 are awarded every year to community volunteers.

According to The Free Dictionary, the acronym OBE can stand for much more than just the excellent Order of the British Empire. This acronym has a plethora of other definitions. However, these are far less common and should be used sparingly. If you do decide to use one of these alternate definitions, make sure that you provide the recipient – the reader or listener –  with the proper context so that they can discern the correct intended meaning. 

  • Other Buggers Efforts
  • One Boson Exchange
  • Omni Box Entertainment (gaming)
  • Opening Balance Equity (finance)
  • Office Basic Edition
  • Overwhelmed by Events
  • Oracle by Example (software)
  • Online Bidding Event
  • Overtaken By Events
  • Original Black Entertainment (British TV channel)
  • Over Bloody Eighty (gifts)
  • Our Best Effort
  • Overall Boat Effectiveness
  • Other Business Enterprise (classification)
  • On Board Experiential Marketing (various locations)
  • Out of Box Experience
  • Out of Body Experience (slang term)
  • Online Booking Engine
  • Operating-Basis Earthquake
  • Out-Board Electronics
  • Open Book Estimate
  • Odontología Basada en la Evidencia
  • Outcome-Based Education
  • Optical Bloch Equations (physics)
  • One Behind the Ear
  • Out before Easter
  • Office of Business Economics
  • Ocean Biogeochemistry and Ecosystems (joint venture; UK)
  • Order of the Brown Envelope
  • Our Best Estimate
  • Old But Everlasting
  • Open Book Examination
  • On-Board Equivalent (NASA)
  • Overcome By Events
  • Outboard Booster Engine
  • On-Board Equipment
  • Obe Burgermeister/Biirgermeister (member of the Prussian Upper House)

Overall, the acronym OBE means Officer of the Order of the British Empire. This shorthand is the second highest ranking order of the British empire award. These ranks and decorations in the British honours system are awarded to multiple people every year from the British government and royals. Other classes of appointment and service marks in Britain include the title of sir, damehood or dame commander (KBE/DBE), dame grand cross, ex officio, knight bachelor, GBE, Noble Order of the Garter, and more! These are given to British Honour recipients as a public recognition of their merit, for an innovative contribution or major contributions to their field. 


  1. OBE – What does OBE stand for? | The Free Dictionary  
  2. What’s the difference between OBE, MBE and CBE? | CBBC Newsround 
  3. Obe | Definition of Obe |