I've seen it quite often that people refer to someone as a "former founder" or "former co-founder," but that's not really possible since a founder is always a founder. Once you found something, even if you leave the project that you founded, you are still a founder. You can't be a person who was at one time the founder of a project, but is no longer the founder. What's the proper way to refer to this phenomenon?


I would suggest founder emeritus.

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines emeritus as an adjective meaning:

(of the former holder of an office, especially a university professor) having retired but allowed to retain their title as an honour

  • Ooooh, this is a good one. I was originally thinking something along the lines of coleopterist's answer, but "founder" doesn't necessarily have to do with a business, so the person might not necessarily be a CEO. This one works for any situation, however. – Nick Anderegg Aug 5 '12 at 17:21
  • Excellent! Going by Google, it also appears to be used quite often :) – coleopterist Aug 5 '12 at 17:23
  • @coleopterist - from our heightened towers, is that good or bad? – bib Aug 5 '12 at 17:29
  • @bib hehe :) My guess is that one of "us" is a sell-out :P – coleopterist Aug 5 '12 at 17:35
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    Both president emeritus and professor emeritus are used extensively, and indicate that the holder was a former active member in that position but now is inactive. The Latin root of emeritus means "earn by service". – bib Aug 5 '12 at 21:15

From what I have seen, this is either handled with "Founder (no longer with the company)", or something like "Founder and former CEO of ...". I do not recall seeing any single-word alternatives to these.

Nice question :)

  • This one works, but it really only applies to companies. If someone founds a club at a school then quits, they wouldn't be the "former CEO." This is definitely still applicable to companies, though. – Nick Anderegg Aug 5 '12 at 17:22
  • @NickAnderegg CEO was just an example. It could be whichever title the founder held in the institution--former principal, former headmaster etc. But, I like "Founder Emeritus", albeit with the caveat that it sounds too ... prestigious and might not be suitable for all situations. – coleopterist Aug 5 '12 at 17:24
  • That's true. But in other situations it doesn't necessarily convey that a person isn't with an organization anymore. I was thinking about something like a college club. Someone could found a club and be the president, but if the next year they decide they don't want the position anymore, although they would be "Founder and former President of..." it wouldn't convey if they were still in the club. They could be the former president, but still be a member. – Nick Anderegg Aug 5 '12 at 17:28
  • Founder emeritus does sound very prestigious. – Nick Anderegg Aug 5 '12 at 17:28
  • If we are looking to denigrate the lackey, perhaps instigator emeritus? – bib Aug 5 '12 at 17:35

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