question: Did pirates call themselves pirates? Was it a title they were happy with? Did they take pride in it? Or was there something else they prefered?
Generally No. Pirates is the oldest and broadest term which applies to nearly any misdead on or near the sea. Historically there were different and more specific words which distinguished the nuances of piracy. The differences between privateer and piracy was in some cases the differences between national hero and capital crime. The three most famous branches of the pirate tree all started out as privateers and evolved from there coming up with more specific words to describe their pursuit.
A privateer was a form of irregular private navy for various nations. They carried letters which authorized these civilian or former military captains to intercept and confiscate enemy shipping. An example was Sir Francis Drake who won fame and fortune raiding spanish towns and ships in/from Central and South America.
The term corsair was used by Ottoman Muslims in the Mediterranean Sea and their European victims. They were essentially privateers with a religious rather than national twist who took thousands of prizes over hundreds of years and in the end extorted protection fees from some of the greatest nations of Europe and the Americas.
The Golden age of Pirates generally used the term buccaneer, which was also geographically specific. Specific to the Caribbean and the Pacific coast of South America. The term is derived from the French boucan, a grill for smoking meat, and was first applied to French wild game hunters living in western Hispaniola in the early 17th century. Buccaneers however grew to include a multinational groups. Buccaneers originally were a kind of privateer who preyed upon Spanish shipping and enjoyed some support from the British and French. However when When England seized Jamaica from Spain in 1655, the buccaneers ran a foul of the British and were hunted as pirates by the British, French, and Spanish navies at various times.
from Steve Bird
Calling Sir Francis Drake a privateer is anachronistic. The term only applies to private warships issued a letter of marque after the English Civil War (when the term was coined). I suggest that you have a look at N.A.M Roger's article in the Mariner's Mirror (The Law and Language of Private Naval Warfare). He notes When writers describe privateering as ‘legalised piracy’ they are not just employing an exhausted cliché, but betraying a weak understanding of both law and history, which makes it difficult to think clearly about piracy.
The practice of privateering was hundreds of years old by the time of the English Civil War(1642–1651). It can be traced back to the 1300s with the Victual Brothers (1360–1401). The first English monarch to issues letters of Marque authorizing private citizens to take foreign shipping predates even the 1300's. It was King Henry III of England in 1243.