Professor Higgs, 82, emeritus professor of physics at Edinburgh University, was presented with the award by the Lord Provost George Grubb at a ceremony at the City Chambers last night.
Prof Higgs, after whom the elusive Higgs boson particle is named, is the fifth person to be honoured with the award, which recognises an outstanding contribution to the city.
The scientist, who was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne but has lived in the Capital for more than half a century, follows in the footsteps of writers Ian Rankin and JK Rowling, cyclist Sir Chris Hoy and judo expert George Kerr, who have previously received the accolade.
He said: “It is a great honour to receive this award from the city that I fell in love with and is now my adopted home.”
His work in the 1960s proposed the existence of a particle which came to be known as the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle. It helps explain why objects have mass.
The award follows an announcement in December from scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research in Switzerland that two independent experiments at the Large Hadron Collider had seen “tantalising hints” of the existence of the Higgs boson.