In some cases, the term is conferred automatically upon all persons who retire at a given rank, but in others, it remains a mark of distinguished service, awarded to only a few on retirement. It is also used when a person of distinction in a profession retires or hands over the position, enabling their former rank to be retained in their title, e.g., "Professor Emeritus". The term emeritus does not necessarily signify that a person has relinquished all the duties of their former position, and they may continue to exercise some of them.
Emerere is a compound of the Latin prefix e- (a variant of ex-) meaning "out of, from" and merere meaning "earn"; emeritus is the past participle of the verb. The female equivalent, emerita (ə/), is also sometimes used, but as is often true of loanwords, the use of the donor language's inflectional system faces limits in the recipient language; in English, emeritus is often unmarked for gender.