How would one refer to one's parent's 2nd spouse, whom they have divorced? For example, I have a biological father, and a step-father, but what about the man my mother was married to before my step-father?

I doubt there's a single word for this, but I need some way to refer to him that isn't so cumbersome. Best I have come up with so far is "my mom's second husband", but I feel this really doesn't convey his importance in my upbringing, so I tack on "they were married all the time I was in school", but it's not great.

  • 4
    "My former stepfather"?
    – Marthaª
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 20:19
  • Why not use his name?
    – Oldcat
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 1:05
  • 1
    "Erstwhile upbringer" has a ring to it… Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 2:11
  • @Potatoswatter Certainly does indeed!
    – wastubbs
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 20:49

3 Answers 3


It's completely appropriate, if you desire, to continue to call him your stepfather if that's what he was. You can have several step-fathers in succession. Simply because you are no longer living with him doesn't erase your relationship with him. Your mother doesn't become your ex-mother when you leave home. Step-siblings are also for life.

If you are not close to him, you can call him your mother's ex.

If Heather can have two mommies, you can certainly have two step-fathers.

  • 4
    They should coin a term for that: stepfather emeritus. .-D
    – Louel
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 20:41
  • 5
    Out-of-step-father. Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 20:42
  • Much depends on the context. If the focus of the conversation is on the role of that person in one's upbringing, then stepfather is indeed quite apt; the fact that he is not married to one's mother now is not relevant to that topic. On the other hand, if the focus of the conversation is on the current life of one's mother, stepfather may be misleading, as it will lead the hearers to assume that they are married now.
    – jsw29
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 16:35

You could always use a numbering system. A woman with multiple marriages often says my first husband, second husband,etc. You could say my 1st stepfather, second step father etc. You could also choose a personalized title like “the dad I adopted” that shows they were neither your birth father nor your current step father but still important to you as a parent. I found names helped. I had stepfather Luke, Daddy Ed, my father Kevin,etc which kept them all separate when talking to friends about them without constantly explaining where they fit. I only reserved the title “former step father” for one’s I was happy to not be connected to anymore.


The best I’ve heard is “Step father emeritus”.

e·mer·i·tus (of the former holder of an office, especially a college professor) having retired but allowed to retain their title as an honor.

Even if people don’t know the definition of emeritus, it has “merit” in it. So that’s a clue. :)

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