Notary Public or Public Notary?

ABC logo 200x200Notary Public or Public Notary?

Question: Why do we say Notary Public, rather than Public Notary?

Answer: As a general rule in English grammar, the adjective (public) is placed before the noun (notary).  In Romance languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Romanian, the adjective follows the noun.

Example: White House (English) versus Casa Blanca (Spanish)

Postpositive Adjectives

Postpositive adjectives are adjectives that follow the nouns they modify.  In Latin, the phrase is notarius publicus.  The Englishnotary public” shows its Latin origin.

Some other English phrases using postpositive adjectives are:

  • accounts payable
  • attorney general
  • postmaster general
  • court martial
  • God almighty
  • poet laureate
  • words unspoken

The plural is notaries public, not notary publics. The noun is plural, not the adjective.

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