AskDefine | Define alumni

Dictionary Definition

alumnus n : a person who has received a degree from a school (high school or college or university) [syn: alumna, alum, graduate, grad] [also: alumni (pl)]alumni See alumnus

User Contributed Dictionary



From Latin alumni


  1. Plural of alumnus Indicates both males and females.
    The alumni of this university include many famous artists and politicians.

Usage notes

The plural alumni is often mistaken for singular, as in I am an alumni of this university. Google, for example, shows about 14,000 hits for "an alumni of" versus about 60,000 for "an alumnus of". The next logical step, alumnis as plural, is also seen. This sort of shift is normal in language usage, but the language of higher education should err on the side of conservatism. Therefore, alumni as singular should still be considered incorrect despite its widening usage.

Extensive Definition

An alumnus (pl. alumni) according to the American Heritage Dictionary is "a male graduate or former student of a school, college, or university." In addition, an alumna (pl. alumnae) is "a female graduate or former student of a school, college, or university."


The English word "alumnus" comes from the Latin noun "alumnus" meaning "nursling" or "ward" and has come to mean, within common English usage, a graduate (or nursling) of a seat of learning. "Alumna" is a feminine form of "alumnus" that has entered common English usage.


As indicated in the American Heritage Dictionary, an alumnus or alumna is either someone who has attended the school (or a "former student of a school") or someone who has graduated from the school. Furthermore, according to and the United States Department of Education, the term alumnae is used in conjunction with either women's colleges or a female group of students. The term alumni is used in conjunction with either men's colleges, a male group of students, or a mixed group of students:
Traditionally, the masculine plural alumni has been used for groups composed of both sexes and is still widely so used: the alumni of The University of Illinois. Sometimes, to avoid any suggestion of sexism, both terms are used for mixed groups: "the alumni/alumnae of The University of Illinois" or the "alumni and alumnae of The University of Illinois" coeducational institutions usually use alumni for graduates of both sexes. Some may prefer the phrase "alumni and alumnae" or the form "alumnae/i", which is the choice of many women's colleges that have begun to admit men.
The term is sometimes shortened to alum which stands for "an alumna or alumnus."
"Alumni" (a plural form) is often used as a singular form for both genders; for example, "I am an alumni of the university," as opposed to "I am an alumnus/alumna of the university." This usage is erroneous in formal or historic usage. The prevalence of this usage is likely due to an ignorance of Latin grammar and the fact that printed documents and university merchandise almost always use the plural form of the word.
Alumni reunions are popular events at many institutions. They are usually organized by alumni associations and are often social occasions for fundraising.

Related terms

At most public schools, New Zealand schools, and a few universities in the UK, and to a lesser extent in Australia and Canada, the phrases old boy and old girl are traditionally used for former school pupils, and old member (or "alumni" in New Zealand) for former university students. At the Royal Military College of Canada, the phrases former cadet and member of the old brigade are traditionally used as are college numbers. Another example is the term old corps, in reference to alumni from the Virginia Military Institute.
Some will use a specific term clearly linked to the school name, such as Old Etonian, Old Knox Grammarian or Old Silcoatian (alumni of Eton College, Knox Grammar School and Silcoates School), or a more obscure one, such as Old Citizen and Old Gregorian for those of the City of London School and Downside School.
In Scotland, the term former pupil (FP) is also used, especially when referring to sports teams of a school. Some U.S. schools, most notably Texas A&M University, also prefer former student.


alumni in German: Alumnus
alumni in Spanish: Alumno
alumni in French: Alumnus
alumni in Galician: Alumno
alumni in Dutch: Alumnus
alumni in Norwegian: Alumni
alumni in Finnish: Alumni
alumni in Swedish: Alumn
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