Defining a honorary member as a person which isn't actually a member of an organization but is recognized as such by the organization because of his/her contributions to the organization or society as a whole, I am wondering if there exists a noun or an adjective used specifically to refer to the real members.

I am looking to use it in the following way:

This mailing list is intended for both real and honorary members of our organization.

Why not just use real? I've thought about using real, standard or actual, but I feel like they all imply that one of the member categories is more important or otherwise superior to the other one, when for the matter at hand they are supposed to be considered equal.

  • 3
    "Members". You don't need an adjective to reinforce what the word already means alone.
    – 1252748
    Feb 15, 2016 at 4:45
  • 3
    Firstly, honorary members are as real as any other. Depending on the bye-laws of your "organization," the other categories probably are Full, Associate, Temporary, etc., together constituting the "paying members."
    – Kris
    Feb 15, 2016 at 8:07
  • 'Fully paid-up' is an informal way of expressing @Kris's thought. May 16, 2023 at 10:33

5 Answers 5


I would use "regular members" in contradistinction to "honorary members." Here is the relevant meaning of regular in Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003):

regular adj ... 4 a : constituted, conducted, scheduled, or done in conformity with established or prescribed usages, rules, or discipline

Depending on the type of organization it is and the qualifications for regular membership, you might use the term "dues-paying members" (where dues-paying simply means "paying regular membership dues") or "rank-and-file members" instead. The relevant definition of rank and file in the Eleventh Collegiate is this:

rank and file n ... 2 : the individuals who constitute the body of an organization, society, or nation as distinguished from the leaders

But "regular members" is probably the most inclusive and neutral term to use.


There is no general answer (i.e. an answer that would be based on the meanings of words as defined in general-purpose dictionaries) that can be given to this question, apart from the obvious non-honorary, suggested by @user140086. If there is a word that can be used to denote all members of a particular organisation other than the honorary ones, it has to be a word that is explicitly defined in the bylaws of that organisation to have that precise meaning.

Using the word real for that purpose would have the implication that the honorary members are not really members of the organisation, which would make one wonder what was the point of admitting them as such. (This has already been observed in a comment by Kris.) Indeed, the honorary members could be insulted by the implication that they are not real members. While it may perhaps be understandable that the non-honorary members may sometimes be tempted to use real in this way when speaking informally, among themselves, its is not something that should ever appear in the organisation's formal communications. (It is not crucial to answering this question, but it should be noted, incidentally, that the differences between the honorary and other members vary greatly from organisation to organisation: at some places the honorary membership is largely nominal, but at others the honorary members may be involved in the actual activities of the organisation.)

The terms regular and ordinary, proposed elsewhere on this page, can mean the same as non-honorary if they are so defined in the bylaws of the organisation, but they cannot be assumed to have that precise meaning in the absence of such an organisation-specific, explicit definition. This is because different organisations have different classifications of members, and in some of them regular or ordinary may be used in contrast to, say, associate, temporary, senior, or emeritus, rather than in contrast to honorary.

So the only answer that can be given to this question is: look up the bylaws of the relevant organisation and use whatever term is defined there to have this meaning. If no such term can be found, then the only term that can reliably carry this precise meaning is non-honorary.


You could consider using ordinary which means:

With no special or distinctive features; normal.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

As Sven Yargs pointed out, you can distinguish members by using fee-paying member and non fee-paying member and an honorary member usually belongs to the latter.

However, if you really want to distinguish other ordinary members from an honorary member, you could consider using non-honorary member:

The membership of any non‐honorary member shall be terminated upon failure by such member to pay the prescribed dues.

[By-Laws of the Southeastern Museum Conference, Incorporated]

Non-honorary is not broadly used, but in your example:

This mailing list is intended for both honorary and non-honorary / ordinary members of our organization.


Generally, just saying "member" is enough. It's the "honorary" before "member" that informs that a person's membership is something different than simply being a member. However, if the context would be aided by drawing a contrast to an "honorary member," "full-fledged member" is fairly common for that purpose.

  • 1
    I have worked for many membership organizations and this is accurate.
    – Lambie
    Jun 4, 2023 at 18:24

In our chapter of the Synchonized Marching and New England Style Chowder Society we call such people active members, to distinguish them from honorary, associate, retired or otherwise ornamental members.

While the latter degrees are invited to write checks in support of the society (NB, Canadians may write "cheques"; we also take plastic...) they are not expected to march or wash chowder bowls.

  • This terminology may work within a particular association, but different associations may use these terms differently. In some of them, for example, a retired member may be somebody who has retired from employment (and, because of that, perhaps entitled to a discount on the membership fees), but is fully active within the association.
    – jsw29
    May 18, 2023 at 16:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.