Supernumerary is an adjective which means "exceeding the usual number". When used as a noun, "supernumerary" means a temporary employee, additional society member, or extra manpower, usually in a function which has a temporary contract. Its counterpart, "numerary", is a civil designation for persons who are incorporated in a fixed or permanent way to a society or group, meaning a regular member of the working staff; permanent staff or member.
The terms supernumerary and "numerary" have long been commonly used in the Spanish and Latin American academy and government; they are now also used in countries all over the world, including France, Great Britain, Italy, and the US. For example, in the Roman army, supernumerarii were either public officers attendant to several of the Roman magistrates or a kind of soldier who filled the places of those killed or disabled by their wounds, or otherwise brought up the ranks to strength.
The supernumerary role is commonplace in numerous fields. For example, there are supernumerary actors, judges, knights, ladies, military personnel, ministers, police officers, professors, and writers.
Types of supernumeraries
There are many types of supernumeraries, depending on the society where they belong:
Arts and entertainment
- supernumerary actors. The term's original use, from the Latin supernumerarius, meant someone paid to appear on stage in crowd scenes or in the case of opera as non-singing small parts. Supernumeraries are usually amateur character artists who train under professional direction to create a believable scene.
Knights and ladies
- supernumerary Knights and Ladies. These are members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs, who are extra members of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the world's oldest national order of knighthood.
- supernumerary watch-standers are designated substitutes for any of a group of scheduled watch-standers who might be absent due to various causes, such as illness or leave.
- supernumerary accountants.
- supernumerary members of a Council of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
- supernumerary judges or magistrates. These are judges who have retired from their full-time position on a court, but continue to work on a part-time basis. Generally, when a judge becomes supernumerary a vacancy is created, and the appropriate person or body may subsequently make a new appointment to that Court.
- Student nurses are classed as supernumerary, as they are only present on placement to shadow their mentor or other staff member, and be supervised when carrying out any clinical practice and shouldn't be classed as making up the numbers in staffing.
- supernumerary professors, typically referred to as adjunct faculty.
- supernumerary members of the Catholic prelature Opus Dei. Having the vocation to become a saint by sanctifying their ordinary circumstances and work, they are generally married men or women who live in their own homes and who perform their normal jobs with a strong sense of commitment. They help in the apostolic tasks of the prelature as their circumstances permit. These members are not fully available to work on the apostolic and formational tasks of the prelature.
- supernumerary ministers, e.g., in British Methodist churches, these are ministers who have retired and are local preachers.
Science and transportation
- In aeronautical context, a flight deck may contain a supernumerary seat. This is a place for someone who hasn't got anything to do with the take off, flying, or landing of the aircraft. Just a place for an extra body to observe.
- In maritime context, the supernumeraries were the complement of persons attached to a voyage but having no shipboard responsibilities; for example, the scientists attached to a voyage of scientific exploration, or the merchant during a trade voyage.
Examples of supernumeraries
- Antonio Pigafetta, the chronicler who provided the most vivid and detailed account of Magellan's circumnavigational voyage, was independently wealthy but enlisted on the voyage as a lowly sobrasaliente or supernumerary.
- Thomas Paine, whose work Common Sense became the most widely read work in 18th-century America, and later led to the Declaration of Independence. He worked as a supernumerary officer in 1761.
- Charles Darwin was a supernumerary on the second voyage of HMS Beagle (1831–1836), paying his own expenses as a naturalist and companion to the captain.
- Henri d'Orléans, duc d'Aumale - The act of exception passed in 1883 deprived all members of families that had reigned in France of their military positions; consequently, the duc d'Aumale was placed on the unemployed supernumerary list.
- Aubrey Herbert, M.P. (1880- September 26, 1923), was a British diplomat, traveller, and intelligence officer, associated with Albanian independence - served in a supernumerary position for the Irish Guards.
- A. C. Grayling MA, DPhil (Oxon), FRSA (born 3 April 1949) is a British philosopher and author. He is the founder and first Master of New College of the Humanities and a supernumerary fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford.
- Conway Walter Heath Pulford, Air Vice Marshal - supernumerary, HQ Coastal Area in 1925 August 17
- Constantin Floros (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Φλόρος) is a Greek musicologist. In 1967 he became supernumerary professor, in 1972 professor of musicology, and in 1995 professor emeritus at the University of Hamburg.
- Nick Middleton is a physical geographer and supernumerary fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford. He specialises in desertification.
- Moshe Dayan, Israeli general and defense minister, was a uniformed member of the British Supernumerary Police during the Emergency of 1936-1938.
- Jay Zeamer, Jr., awarded the Medal of Honor in 1943, was a supernumerary of the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), a group that flew the four-engined B-17 Flying Fortress.
- Guillermo Meneses, winner of the National Prize for Literature was supernumerary writer of the Ministry of Outer Relations and at that time was named first secretary of the Embassy of Venezuela in Brussels (1953-1957) and soon with the same position in the Embassy of Venezuela in Paris (1957-1959).
- Lee Kuan Yew was a supernumerary minister, appointed as Minister Mentor for the cabinet ministers of Singapore.
- Ruth Kelly, former British Secretary of State for Transport, is a supernumerary member of the Opus Dei prelature. She belongs to the Labour Party, a centre-left political grouping.
- Anne, Princess Royal, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Prince Andrew, Duke of York are supernumerary members of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.
In popular culture
- In Mad Men, Roger Sterling's second wife, Jane, fixes up Don Draper with an unemployed actress who works as a supernumerary, named Bethany Van Nuys.
- Short lexicon of employee relations
- Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary
- Ability Plus - Training Scheme for People with Disabilities
- Museo Lázaro Galdiano - Ficha de Inventario - Un contador supernumerario del Ministerio de Marina
- Excmo. Sr. D. Eugenio Andrés Puente, Curriculum Vitae
- Channel Asia News