Alumni (singular: alumnus (masculine) or alumna (feminine)) are former students of a school, college, or university who have either attended or graduated in some fashion from the institution. The feminine plural alumnae is sometimes used for groups of women. The word is Latin and means "one who is being (or has been) nourished". The term is not synonymous with "graduate"; one can be an alumnus without graduating ( Burt Reynolds, alumnus but not graduate of Florida State, is an example). The term is sometimes used to refer to a former employee or member of an organization, contributor, or inmate.


Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through the power of ...
noun A noun () is a word that generally functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Example nouns for: * Living creatures (including people, alive, ...
''alumnus'' means "foster son" or "pupil". It is derived from PIE ''*h₂el-'' (grow, nourish), and it is a variant of the Latin
verb A verb () is a word ( part of speech) that in syntax generally conveys an action (''bring'', ''read'', ''walk'', ''run'', ''learn''), an occurrence (''happen'', ''become''), or a state of being (''be'', ''exist'', ''stand''). In the usual descri ...
''alere'' "to nourish".Merriam-Webster: alumnus
Separate, but from the same root, is the
adjective In linguistics, an adjective ( abbreviated ) is a word that generally modifies a noun or noun phrase or describes its referent. Its semantic role is to change information given by the noun. Traditionally, adjectives were considered one of the ...
''almus'' "nourishing", found in the phrase ''Alma Mater'', a title for a person's home university. In Latin, ''alumnus'' is a legal term (
Roman law Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, including the legal developments spanning over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC), to the '' Corpus Juris Civilis'' (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman emperor Jus ...
) to describe a child placed in
fosterage Fosterage, the practice of a family bringing up a child not their own, differs from adoption in that the child's parents, not the foster-parents, remain the acknowledged parents. In many modern western societies foster care can be organised by th ...
. According to John Boswell, the word "is nowhere defined in relation to status, privilege, or obligation." Citing the research of Henri Leclercq, Teresa Nani, and Beryl Rawson, who studied the many inscriptions about ''alumni,'' Boswell concluded that it referred to exposed children who were taken into a household where they were "regarded as somewhere between an heir and a slave, partaking in different ways of both categories." Despite the warmth of feelings between the parent and child, "an ''alumnus'' might be treated both as a beloved child and as a household servant."


An alumnus or alumna is a former student and most often a graduate of an educational institution (school, college, university).''The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language''
/ref> According to the
United States Department of Education The United States Department of Education is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government. It began operating on May 4, 1980, having been created after the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was split into the Departme ...
, the term ''alumnae'' is used in conjunction with either
women's colleges Women's colleges in higher education are undergraduate, bachelor's degree-granting institutions, often liberal arts colleges, whose student populations are composed exclusively or almost exclusively of women. Some women's colleges admit male stu ...
or a female group of students. The term ''alumni'' is used in conjunction with either
men's colleges In higher education, a men's college is an undergraduate, bachelor's degree-granting institution whose students are exclusively men. Many are liberal arts colleges. Around the world In North America United States In the United States, co-edu ...
, a male group of students, or a mixed group of students:
In accordance with the rules of grammar governing the inflexion of nouns in the
Romance languages The Romance languages, sometimes referred to as Latin languages or Neo-Latin languages, are the various modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin. They are the only extant subgroup of the Italic languages in the Indo-European language ...
, the masculine plural alumni is correctly used for groups composed of both sexes: ''the alumni of Princeton University''.
The term is sometimes informally shortened to "alum" (optional plural "alums")."alum." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1). Based on the ''Random House Unabridged Dictionary'', © Random House, Inc. 2006. 1 December 2006. Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/alum Alumni reunions are popular events at many institutions. They are usually organized by
alumni association An alumni association or alumnae association is an association of graduates or, more broadly, of former students (alumni). In the United Kingdom and the United States, alumni of universities, colleges, schools (especially independent schools), ...
s and are often social occasions for
fundraising Fundraising or fund-raising is the process of seeking and gathering voluntary financial contributions by engaging individuals, businesses, charitable foundations, or governmental agencies. Although fundraising typically refers to efforts to gathe ...

See also

* :Alumni by educational institution




External links

* {{Authority control Academic terminology