The Latin noun alumnus means "foster son" or "pupil" and is derived from the verb alere "to nourish". B Pictured: Lorado Taft's Alma Mater in Urbana, Illinois.

Alumni (SG: alumnus (MASC) or alumna (FEM)) are former students or graduates of a school, college, or university, . 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 University, is an example). The term is sometimes used to refer to a former employee or member of an organization, contributor, or inmate.


The Latin noun alumnus means "foster son" or "pupil". It is derived from PIE *h₂el- (grow, nourish), and it is a variant of the Latin verb alere "to nourish". Separate, but from the same root, is the adjective 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) to describe a child placed in fosterage. 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."

alumnus alumna alumni alumnae
English /əˈlʌmnəs/
alsoUS: /-naɪ/-⁠nye
Latin (Classical) [aˈlʊmnʊs] [aˈlʊmna] [aˈlʊmniː] [aˈlʊmnae̯]
Latin (Ecclesiastical) [aˈlumnus] [aˈlumna] [aˈlumni] [aˈlumne]


An alumnus or alumna is a former student or a graduate of an educational institution (school, college, university). According to 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:

In accordance with the rules of grammar governing the inflexion of nouns in the Romance languages, 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").

Many universities have alumni offices that coordinate fundraising and offer benefits to registered alumni. Alumni reunions are popular events at many institutions. These may be organized by alumni offices or by alumni associations, and are often social occasions for fundraising. Full membership of alumni associations is sometimes limited just to graduates rather than all alumni, e.g. at Harvard University.

In British English, the terms "old boy" or "old girl" are often preferred for a former pupil of a primary or secondary school, while universities refer to their former students as alumni.

Some universities, including the University of Cambridge, the University of California, San Francisco and Yale University, include former postdoctoral researchers as alumni, in recognition of the trainee status of such positions. Others, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, consider them 'associate alumni', without full access to alumni benefits.

See also

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