The question should be clear enough from the title.

Also: What are we supposed to call one who ousts? [If this warrants another question, I will edit this out and open another question.]

  • This dictionary defines "ouster" as a person who "ousts" as well as the act of ousting
    – Thursagen
    Jun 13, 2011 at 0:26
  • This word is rarely used in the UK, except as legal terminology, so I have added the american-english tag.
    – z7sg Ѫ
    Jun 13, 2011 at 1:21
  • 9
    A merger isn't generally a person who merges, and a prayer isn't generally a person who prays, either. Jun 13, 2011 at 2:14
  • @Peter Shor: Good point. Perhaps if I had as much exposure to ouster as to your examples, it wouldn't sound as weird to me.
    – John Y
    Jun 14, 2011 at 0:23

4 Answers 4


An ouster (noun) is an ejection from an office or a position. Etymonline gives its derivation thus:

oust early 15c., from Anglo-Fr. oster (late 13c.), O.Fr. oster "put out, keep off, remove, avert" (Fr. ôter), from L. obstare "stand opposite to, block, hinder," from ob "against" + stare "to stand," from PIE base sta - "to stand" (see stet).

So the noun derives from the Anglo-French meaning, first and foremost in the sense of a "putting out" of someone, and it has come down to us as a handy synonym of "expulsion" or "impeachment" with the more general sense of relieving officials of their positions.

That said, ouster could be used in both senses: As someone who ousts someone else from a position, and the act of ousting that person. But the use in the former sense would be uncommon and not readily understood with no supporting context.

  • 2
    I find this unsatisfying; it explains the derivation of the verb, but not of the unusual "er" noun ending. Apr 13, 2017 at 9:22
  • @RogerLipscombe - I agree. I accepted this answer because it does technically address my question, even my side question, and because I felt a certain pressure to accept an "acceptable" answer in a reasonable amount of time, in the absence of any better answers. If you could somehow incorporate and flesh out Peter Shor's comment into this answer, that would be probably be ideal.
    – John Y
    May 21, 2018 at 13:50

I think a "courteous" foreign language (French) was used as a veil, because the action is potentially embarrassing; and the infinitive was used as a noun to maintain the foreignness. That has since been forgotten, and the pronunciation Anglicized. I think its recent importation into British English (e.g. in BBC news reports) is willfully Hitchcockian, because it suggests some point is being made about confusing the deed with the doer.


As I understand it, it comes from the French "ouster", where the "-er" suffix indicates that it's a verb.

Manger (pronounced 'mawn-JAY' - "eating")

Parler (pronounced 'par-LAY' - "talking")

Ouster (pronounced 'oos-TAY' - [no equivalent word] [use theirs] [keep the spelling] [give it a new pronunciation] [devise 'oust' as a backformation])

  • That doesn't address the question. Also, if the question were about pronunciation it would be wrong.
    – Mitch
    Oct 11, 2016 at 14:54

I would have always said the ousting of a person as opposed to the ouster. Is it a British thing to find ouster used in this way?

  • Welcome to EL&U! While we don't want to discourage participation, this site strives to be a place driven by questions and answers, rather than an open forum for commentary. What you've written here is clearly a comment, not an answer to the question at hand. Try asking some of your own questions or giving actual answers to other people's questions. The folks here tend to be pretty eager to reward sincere effort with upvotes, so you should find yourself with the requisite 50 rep to make comments before too long.
    – John Y
    Aug 5, 2013 at 22:01
  • 1
    Ousting = UK; ouster = US. For me, as someone who grew up in the UK, until I moved to the USA I would have taken 'ouster' to mean 'a person who ousts'.
    – Erik Kowal
    Aug 30, 2014 at 9:59
  • 1
    Yes the opposite - ouster is US - to mean ousting. Ousting is far more intuitive.
    – niico
    Dec 22, 2014 at 15:26

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