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What is an Honorable Mention?

J. Beam
J. Beam

An honorable mention is merely a name given to a distinction that may or may not be awarded at the end of a contest, exhibition, or competition. The definition implies that it is a distinction given to a entry worthy of mention, but not warranting top prize or first place. Depending on the rules and regulation of a given competition or contest, this may be the same as third to fifth place or may be part of an award given to a collective number of participants who rate the distinction.

Honorable mention can also be interpreted as runner-up status in a contest. Contests that award prizes for certain placements may award an this or a runner-up distinction to its participants. It could be simply the distinction or may include the same prize for all participants who earn that status at the end of the contest.

Honorable mention ribbon.
Honorable mention ribbon.

In exhibitions, honorable mention may be a better achievement than in prize contests. Literary and art competitions for example may award this to its entrants who do not take first place, but the exposure that results from the distinction is often beneficial. Many competitions at least make note of this award or awards in some fashion and, while not first place, can yield positive results such as public recognition, published recognition, or display and exhibition.

The sheer nature of contests warrants a competitive nature and honorable mention is obviously not the same as winning first place. However, in many competitions, it is considered placing or winning at some level. The actual distinction and the notoriety that may or may not come along with it depend solely on the rules and regulations as well as the nature of the contest or competition. Most competitors do not set out for achieving only honorable mention and strive to win, but in some venues, it is not the same as losing.

Discussion Comments


Out of 550 students at a science fair only 50 received rewards. Being one of those, if only an honorable mention, felt special to me.


My daughter received honorable mention on her science fair project. No, it was not first place, but out of the hundreds of projects entered, her project was worth mentioning! How awesome and what an honor!


Receiving honorable mention helped me in my graphic design career. During my last semester of college, I entered a competition to design a new logo for a local business, and even though mine didn't get picked, it did get this honor.

It just so happened that another business in the area was paying attention to the winners of the competition. This was an advertising agency looking to recruit new designers.

They ended up hiring me and the third place winner. The actual winner and the person who placed second already had job offers, so this cleared the way for us.


I was a B and C student all throughout school, so to me, getting honorable mention for anything I did was something to get excited about. It gave me something good to tell my parents, and it often resulted in some sort of reward.

After receiving honorable mention for my creative writing essay, I got rewarded with money from my parents. I didn't know that it was coming, but I was happy to receive it. Then they told me that this would happen any time that I achieved something like this, so that motivated me to try hard in every contest.

School was hard for me, because I didn't grasp everything as quickly and easily as some students. I really had to work at getting the grades that I did, so getting honorable mention was as good to me as placing second.


@lighth0se33 - I sort of understand how your classmate felt. If she was an overachiever or perfectionist like me, then "honorable mention" was a slap in the face.

It can make you feel inferior. If you have been working so hard to be the best and all you get is a slight nod in your direction, then it can sting a bit.

I got honorable mention for my artwork in a contest at my university, and I did get upset about it. I had spent many hours on the piece I had entered, and it was like my baby. I felt that it should have received the highest honor, rather than the lowest place even mentioned.


Some people get very upset when they receive honorable mention. I remember my fourth grade science fair and how upset one girl in my class was to be the one who received this acknowledgment.

I had won the botany section of the science fair, and while I was happy about this, I don't think I would have been crushed to have gotten honorable mention. My classmate burst into tears when they called her name at the end of the winners list.

To her, this meant that she had been considered unworthy of even the third highest praise. This was unacceptable in her eyes. I think she might have actually preferred no mention at all, because she seemed humiliated at the attention she received.


to the postings #1 & #2 below: very intelligent remarks!

Kudos and thank you.


The honorable mention has lost some of its splendor as it becomes more and more common to recognize the work of all entrants. While it is certainly noble to want to acknowledge the effort expended by all participants, an attempt to make all feel special dulls the effect.


Honorable mentions are often more likely to be considered a greater honor if associated with some particular facet of the work in question. Such highlighting of an element of the entry brings specific attention to bear on the skill exhibited by the entry's creator(s).

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    • Honorable mention ribbon.
      By: cphoto
      Honorable mention ribbon.