Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
November 29th, 2015
Episode 386 of 718 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for November 29, 2015 is: emeritus \ih-MEH-ruh-tus\ adjective 1 : holding after retirement an honorary title corresponding to that held last during active service 2 : retired from an office or position converted to emeriti after a plural Examples: A letter decrying cuts in staffing at the university was signed by 42 professors emeriti. "Additional members were named at the annual meeting to the 2015-16 board of directors, which now includes 22 members and four directors emeriti." Jenn Smith, The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts), 28 Sept. 2015 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 formemeritiwhen 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 beginning of the early 18th century, English speakers were using emeritus as an adjective to refer to professors who had retired from office. The word eventually became applied to other professions where a retired member may continue to hold a title in an honorary capacity.