Emeritus – Meaning & Definition

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Emeritus is a title used in both academic and professional settings to show that someone has retired from their position but is still held in high regard for their wonderful contributions. The word’s origin actually comes from the Latin word “emeritus,” which means “veteran” or “retired.” But let’s take a closer look as I break down some details about this uncommon word and see how you can use it properly.

What Does Emeritus Status Mean?

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There are several ways you can use the term, and it all depends on the context. I’ll break it down for you.

Emeritus Academically

In academic institutions, the honorary title of emeritus is handed out to retired professors who’ve made great contributions and were dedicated for years to their field. They’re called Professor Emeritus or Emeritus Professors. 

The title of Professor Emeritus lets others know that the professor is still highly respected and valued by the college or university and can continue to be involved in the institution’s community, like giving lectures or advising students.

A good example is from when I was in university. I studied Design, and my professor was actually a retired designer who ventured into the field of teaching what she knew to upcoming designers. She spent a decade at the university before officially retiring and then used her time to coach new instructors as the long-term Emeritus Professor.

Emeritus Professionally

In a professional setting, the title of emeritus is also bestowed to those who have retired from their long-standing careers but are still recognized for all their hard work and what they contributed.

For example, a company might give the title of emeritus to a retired executive who had a massive role in the company’s growth and success for years and years, like an Artistic Director Emeritus, Columnist Emeritus, or Chairman Emeritus, for example.

Emeritus Religiously

The title of emeritus is also used in some religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church, where it’s actually given to retired bishops that have served their diocese for years.

Who Can Use the Title Emeritus?

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Not everyone can get into the club! The title isn’t just automatically granted upon retirement and handed out lie parting gifts. It’s usually given as the highest honor to someone who has made some seriously amazing contributions to their field, organization, or community.

It is also not generally given to people who’ve been terminated from their position or retired under less-than-desirable circumstances. Kind of expected when you think about it.

Using the Word Emeritus

The proper use of the title of emeritus is a way for an organization or institution to recognize and honor the contributions of an individual who has played a huge role in their success. It also allows the individual to continue to be involved in the community and to share their knowledge and experience with others, like a very experienced and super-qualified mentor, so to speak.

Is the Title Emeritus Only for Men?

No. While it’s been mostly used for males in fields of academia and religion, the title can be given to both men and women. A retired female professor would be called emerita.

How to Pronounce Emeritus

You would say it as uh-meh-ruh-tuhs.

What is the Plural of Emeritus?

The plural is emeriti whether you’re talking about a male or female.

Examples of Emeritus in Sentences

  • After years of dedicated service, Professor Smith was given the title of Emeritus upon her retirement from the university.
  • Our board of directors honored the retired CEO by giving her the title of Emeritus for her contributions to the company’s success.
  • The emeritus bishop will continue to be involved in the diocese, offering guidance and counsel to the current bishop.
  • The emeritus professor will continue to give guest lectures and advise students at the university.
  • The company’s emeritus board member will still attend board meetings in an advisory capacity.
  • The emeritus scientist will continue to be involved in research projects, sharing his expertise and knowledge with the current team.
  • Emeritus members will remain active in the organization, participating in meetings and events.

Malott was elected a trustee of the University in 1976. He served as vice chairman of the Board of Trustees from 1988 to 1993, was elected a life trustee in 1993, and was named a trustee emeritus in 2007. (The University of Chicago News)

The Emeritus Article

So, basically, the term can be applied in any context where you’re talking about someone who’s outgrown or retired from their field, whether it be academically or professionally, or even religiously. But the actual title is only bestowed when the person’s contributions are highly recognized.