Emoluments Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

“Emoluments” is quite a peculiar word, and it doesn’t come up in regular conversation often. So, when it does, it will likely cause confusion. It might sound like an unnecessary word that pretentious people use, but this word is actually quite important.  

Emoluments is one of those words with a loaded meaning, and there are a lot of legal ramifications associated with its definition — making it all the more crucial to understand and use correctly. 

Today, we are going to talk about the meaning of emoluments. After this complete guide, you’ll have a full understanding of this word and how it is used, and you’ll even learn a little bit about the Constitution and the laws of the USA. Let’s get started!

What Is the Definition of Emoluments? 

The word emoluments (ēmol’ yə mənts) is hardly used in everyday conversation. The main context in which it is used is in government, legislation, and government documents. Here is a definition (or two!) of the word emoluments:

  • A profit or compensation, typically a salary or fee, given to a person for completing services or for employment, typically for holding elected office
  • A benefit, reward, or a gift

Essentially, emoluments is a word used to refer to the salary or payment of a government official. 

Although you could technically use the word emoluments to describe an average person’s salary, that wouldn’t quite carry the appropriate meaning of the word. It is typically reserved for the government (mostly elected officials). 

Where Did the Word Emoluments Come From? 

Emolument has been in the English language for quite some time, maintaining its spelling and definition since the time of Middle English. Because it is primarily used in an academic or official context and not in common speech, its meaning and usage have remained well-recorded and consistent. 

Before emolument came into Middle English, it took root in Latin. Specifically, the Latin emolo and the Latin emolumentum are likely where this word finds its ancestry. These words mean “profit or advantage.” 

There are different theories rearding where in Latin the word emolument originated. Some scholars believe that it was derived from the Latin emo liri, meaning “to bring out by effort.” This theory is fairly credible and makes good sense.

Others still suggest that it comes from the root word molere, meaning “to grind out.” This word was used to describe a mill grinding grain or corn. This theory states that molere (also emolere) eventually evolved into emolumentum, which originally meant “payment to a miller” and later “profit or advantage.”

Although there are several theories as to how this word came into being in the Latin language, it is clear that the word emolumentum is the direct ancestor of emoluments. 

How Is Emoluments Used in the Government?

In the modern-day, the most common place we find the word emolument is in government documents, specifically the U.S. Constitution but also in several other pieces of legislation. 

In the Constitution, Article I, Section 9, Clause 8, states: 

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

This clause, also called the foreign emoluments clause, means that any person who holds office in the government cannot accept payment, salary, or gift from foreign governments or foreign state officials for any services provided. This is included in the Constitution to protect the integrity of our elected officials and ensure that they do not accept bribes from foreign powers. 

Payment of the President

Another important place the word emolument pops up is in a law surrounding the payment of the president. Essentially, it is illegal for Congress to adjust the pay of the President of the United States during their current term. 

This law is in place to protect the president and make sure that Congress does not leverage the President’s salary over them in order to sway the President’s actions. This is a very important inclusion of the law to ensure proper checks and balances. 

What Are Some Example Sentences for Emoluments?

Understanding how this word is used in context can bring further clarity to its meaning. Here are some examples of emolument being used in a sentence. 

The emolument of the president cannot be infringed upon by Congress during the President’s term. That would be an unfair bargaining chip against the president. 

Any officeholders in the United States aren’t allowed to accept any emoluments from foreign powers. That way, we don’t have any foreign bribes influencing our government officials. 

I don’t know what the guaranteed emoluments of the President are, but I’m sure they’re pretty substantial. 

President Donald Trump was sued in 2018 for emoluments violations, but the case was tossed out when Trump left office. 

What Are Synonyms of Emoluments? 

Here are some synonyms for the word emoluments that you might find in a thesaurus. 

  • Remuneration
  • Allowance
  • Compensation
  • Fee
  • Income 
  • Profits
  • Salary
  • Stipend
  • Wage
  • Reimbursement 
  • Perquisites

What Are Antonyms of Emoluments? 

Here are some antonyms for the word emoluments. 

  • Debt
  • Penalty
  • Loss
  • Damage
  • Waste

A Piece of Legal Jargon

Emoluments may seem like an unnecessary piece of legal jargon, but it holds great significance in legal and academic settings. By setting aside different definitions for highly specific concepts, our laws can be clear and effective. 

Now you know the meaning of the word of the day: emoluments. Use it confidently in your writing or your speech. If you ever need a refresher on the word emoluments or its definition, feel free to come back to this article for a refresher. 


Emolument | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute | Cornell Law School 

Foreign Emoluments Clause | Constitution Annotated | Congress.gov | Library of Congress 

Emolument | Cambridge English Dictionary