It is said that Franz Liszt worked as Grand Ducal Director of Music Extraordinary at Weimar court.

What does Extraordinary mean in the name of a job?

I remember in an episode of The Office, the American TV show, where Michael Scott referred his subordinate as "Accountant Extraordinaire."

Do those two, Extraordinary and Extraordinaire, have the same meaning?

2 Answers 2


Extraordinary in the first sentence would mean 'outside the ordinary', i.e., an appointment that's not from the usual staff. These days you may come across phrases such as 'ambassadory extraordinary and plenipotentiary'.

OED: Of officials, persons employed, etc.: Outside of or additional to the regular staff; not belonging to the ‘ordinary’ or fully recognized class of such persons

The word 'Extraordinaire' is equivalent to 'extraordinary' in another meaning, i.e., remarkable, out of the ordinary. So in this instance, an accountant of exceptional skill.

OED (Extraordinary) Of a kind not usually met with; exceptional; unusual; singular.

OED (Extraordinaire) Remarkable, outstanding; of a person: unusually active or successful in a particular field.

  • 3
    They have the same meaning, but (as the answer suggests) the difference is in context. "Extraordinaire" is common in showbusiness contexts for a performer of particular note ("performer/singer/actor extraordinaire"), though often in an ironic or jokey way, and rare outside that ("accountant extraordinaire" is a parody of this usage). Extraordinary has the special use in the names of officials, but is also commonly used as an adjective in other contexts, whereas I would be surprised to see "extraordinaire" except as some kind of showbiz reference.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 11:21
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    In the one case it applies to the role the person holds, in the other to the person's abilities. Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 16:45
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    Extrodinaire is used outside show business but not, obviously, commonly. By definition there aren't many of them (whether used ironically or not). Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 11:21
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    Some of the titles incorporating the word extraordinary need to be thought of as technical terms; the precise nature of these titles cannot be discerned by consulting dictionary definitions of that word. To really understand what it was to be 'Grand Ducal Director of Music Extraordinary' at Weimar court, one would need to be familiar with the organisation of the court.
    – jsw29
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 16:19

While Lizt was definitely an extraordinary person in the meaning that he was talented and beyond what was normal in his musical talent, that is not how the word is used here.

Extraordinary can also mean performing a job and it is “outside of or additional to the ordinary staff; having a special, often temporary task or responsibility”. This is not one of the more common uses of the word, it will be seen more often in official titles than in everyday use.

The Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna was the wife of the Grand Duke of Weimar, and she was a patron of the arts. She did support a number of talented artists, including Lizt. While there was likely an official court musician, appointing someone of exceptional talent to an “Extraordinary” position, provided them an income to support themselves while they devoted themselves to their art.

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    Commented Oct 16, 2019 at 2:01

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