Watching to a documentary I've noticed that they refer to people as retired and/or former, what is the difference between the two?


John Doe former minister of defense

John Doe retired minister of defense

Researching I found that retired and former are synonymous but, why sometimes for the same person is used retired and other times former?

Reply to the those who asked where I've found that the two words are synonymous:

Google search: retired synonym

The first word listed is: former

That is why I presumed that they are synonymous, as you all may noticed English is not my first language, so please go easy with me ;-)

  • 2
    I don't know where you got the notion that these words are synonymous. I think they are related, but I wouldn't call them synonyms. If a schoolteacher accepts a promotion and becomes a school principal, she may be a former teacher, but I don't think retired teacher would be as accurate – not when she's still working at the school.
    – J.R.
    May 24, 2018 at 21:12
  • former means you had the job before but don't anymore. retired is a work related status change. Though to retire you had to have the job before (former). But you should add what you found "that retired and former are synonymous" so as to not cover what you already know.
    – user3169
    May 24, 2018 at 21:12

1 Answer 1


Jane is the former president of X Corporation simply means that Jane once was the president of X, but no longer is. She may or may not have retired from the job. She may have been fired or jailed. She may have left for another job. It has a very broad meaning.

Bob is the retired president of Y corporation means that Bob once was the president of Y, but no longer is because Bob retired from that position due to age. It has a much more limited and specific meaning.

Retired and former are not synonyms: where did you get that idea?


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