Are Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson (among others) astronauts? Does any flying to space makes a human an astronaut, also when they are dead weight? Assuming that the definition of space (Kármán line or 50 miles) is irrelevant.
tl;dr Branson and Bezos received FAA Commercial Space Astronaut Wings.
"Astronaut" is a word and anyone can use it to mean anything they like. This question invites argument about definitions, which by definition is pointless unless it is narrowly defined.
The criteria for being awarded astronaut wings from the United States Government are not fuzzy - but they have changed over time. If you choose to restrict usage of the word "astronaut" to mean "a person who has been awarded astronaut wings from the United States Government" these are the current criteria for being an astronaut:
To earn an astronaut badge, a U.S. Air Force or U.S. Navy and Marine Corps officer must complete all required training and participate in a space flight more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) above the Earth.
The U.S. Army has awarded the badge to officers that have orbited the Earth.
(Note that Army astronaut wings were only created in 1983).
NASA astronaut wings are "issued in two grades, silver and gold, with the silver pin awarded to candidates who have successfully completed astronaut training and the gold pin to astronauts who have flown in space." Note silver = astronaut candidate training complete, gold = astronaut. NASA payload specialists received yet a third version of the badge, not astronaut wings at all.
From Mike Mullane's (highly-recommended) memoir Riding Rockets about his first flight
Hank gave us a countdown. "Here it comes...forty-eight...forty-nine...fifty miles. Congratulations, rookies. You're officially astronauts."
The current NASA astronaut website says
The term "astronaut" derives from the Greek words meaning "space sailor," and refers to all who have been launched as crew members aboard NASA spacecraft bound for orbit and beyond.
The FAA has issued astronaut wings in the past to fliers who submit an application that was judged to meet their criteria. Note that between Branson and Bezos's flights, they tightened said criteria to require demonstration of "activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety." Thanks to Jörg W Mittag for explaining this to me via comments and providing a link to the criteria.
Update: The FAA has announced that as of the end of 2021 they will no longer be awarding astronaut wings. Space flight participants who fly by the end of the year will still receive them.
Branson and Bezos are listed on the FAA website as part of "The 24 individuals who received FAA Commercial Space Astronaut Wings" (as indicated by the asterisk by their names).
See also good answers to
This question is one of definitions, like “is an SUV a car or a truck?” Organic Marble nailed it with, ”astronaut is a word … anyone can use it to mean anything they like.”
Linguists differentiate between prescriptive definitions vs descriptive definitions. English dictionaries have traditionally been descriptive. Oxford Dictionary gives the history of a word along with references for how the word use has changed over the centuries. American dictionaries have traditionally been prescriptive: an authority (like Webster) tells you the “right” way to use the word (if you are allowed to use it at all).
A prescriptive definition of astronaut would be “A US military officer who, having completed all required training, completes a space flight more than 50 km above the Earth… or the training for such a flight”
A descriptive definition of astronaut would be “a person who travels beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.” Because that’s the way it is used in society at the moment.
“Astronaut” is a reserved title, like “Physician”, “Admiral”, “Pope” or “Congressman”. It means a person meets the criteria of the organization which society has empowered to grant the designation. The US government cannot designate a person a “Cosmonaut”. Virgin cannot designate a space tourist an “Astronaut”. I don’t get called “Captain” just because I rode in the passenger cabin.
The rest of society obviously doesn’t agree with me. An “astronaut” is a steely-eyed, square-jawed hero who returns from a trip to the heavens. Like Captain Kirk, for instance. That smirk. Those twinkling eyes! My hero!
I know Ohoh doesn’t like opinions and doesn’t like being told questions belong on another forum. But, in my opinion, this question belongs on “English Language and Usage.” It is about language, not space exploration. It is off topic.