emer·​i·​tus | \ i-ˈmer-ə-təs How to pronounce emeritus (audio) \
plural emeriti\ i-​ˈmer-​ə-​ˌtī How to pronounce emeriti (audio) , -​ˌtē \

Definition of emeritus

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a person retired from professional life but permitted to retain as an honorary title the rank of the last office held



Definition of emeritus (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : holding after retirement an honorary title corresponding to that held last during active service
2 : retired from an office or position professor emeritus converted to emeriti after a plural professors emeriti

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Did You Know?


The adjective emeritus is unusual in two ways: it's frequently used postpositively (that is, after the noun it modifies), and it has a plural form—emeriti—when it modifies a plural noun in its second sense. If you've surmised from these qualities that the word is Latin in origin, you are correct. Emeritus, which is the Latin past participle of the verb emereri, meaning "to serve out one's term," was originally used to describe soldiers who had completed their duty. (Emereri is from the prefix e-, meaning "out," and merēre, meaning "to earn, deserve, or serve"—also the source of our English word merit.) By the early 18th century, English speakers were using emeritus as an adjective to refer to professors who had retired from office. The word eventually came to be applied to other professions where a retired member may continue to hold a title in an honorary capacity.

Examples of emeritus in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Robin Chazdon, a forest ecologist and an emeritus professor at the University of Connecticut, wanted to figure out which restored forests would deliver the most net benefits to humanity. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Restoring forests may be one of our most powerful weapons in fighting climate change," 5 July 2019 He's now been retired since 1998, and has the title of emeritus professor currently. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "Who Is Kamala Harris's Dad Donald Harris, a Renowned Stanford Professor?," 3 July 2019 Antony Young, emeritus professor of experimental photobiology at King's College London, warns that most of the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation is not visible to the naked eye. Nina Avramova, CNN, "How your health is at risk during a heatwave," 28 June 2019 The Northeastern University emeritus professor has compiled statistics from the state showing that drivers going northbound from the Braintree split on Interstate 93 during the morning rush hour travel, on average, at 10.3 miles per hour. Shirley Leung, BostonGlobe.com, "Hey Expressway drivers: Red Line’s woes will hurt you, too," 13 June 2019 John Poppo, who served as Chairman the past four years, did not step into the chair emeritus role, as is customary. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "Recording Academy Announces Newly Elected Chair, National Officers," 6 June 2019 Duffy, an emeritus Cambridge don, has realized my fears, engaging in what in journalism is known as bigfooting. Eamon Duffy, The New York Review of Books, "Feasting on Erasmus," 9 May 2019 Breaking with past practice, Francis decided to act swiftly in the case of the emeritus archbishop of Washington, D.C., even before the accusations can be investigated by church officials. Fox News, "The Latest: Texas prelate praises pope's move on McCarrick," 28 July 2018 Josephine Arendt, an emeritus professor of endocrinology at Surrey University who studies circadian rhythms, agreed about the importance of the work winning this year’s prize. Quanta Magazine, "Nobel Prize Awarded for Biological Clock Discoveries," 2 Oct. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'emeritus.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of emeritus


circa 1701, in the meaning defined above


1794, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for emeritus


Latin, past participle of emereri to serve out one's term, from e- + mereri, merēre to earn, deserve, serve — more at merit

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Time Traveler for emeritus

The first known use of emeritus was circa 1701

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English Language Learners Definition of emeritus

: retired with an honorary title from an office or position especially in a university

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Britannica English: Translation of emeritus for Arabic Speakers

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to complain fretfully

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