An alumnus according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is "a graduate of a school, college, or university." An alumnus can also be a former member, employee, contributor or inmate as well as a former student. In addition, an alumna (pl. alumnae) is "a female graduate or former student of a school, college, or university". If a group includes both genders, even if there is only one male, the plural form alumni is used.


The Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

In linguistics, a noun is a member of a large, open lexical category whose members can occur as the main word in the subject of a clause, the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition .Lexical categories are defined in terms of how their members combine with other kinds of...

 alumnus means "foster son, pupil" and is derived from the verb
A verb, from the Latin verbum meaning word, is a word that in syntax conveys an action , or a state of being . In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive...

 alere "to nourish."


An alumnus or alumna is a former student and most often a graduate of an educational institution (school, college, university). According to the United States Department of Education
United States Department of Education
The United States Department of Education, also referred to as ED or the ED for Education Department, is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government...

, 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
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

, the masculine plural alumni is correctly used for groups composed of both sexes: the alumni of Baylor University.

The term is sometimes shortened to "alum," which stands for "an alumna or alumnus."

"Alumni" (a plural form) is often incorrectly used as a singular form for both genders; for example, "I am an alumni of Texas Tech
University," as opposed to "I am an alumnus/alumna of Texas Tech 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 reunion
Class reunion
A class reunion is a meeting of former classmates, typically organized at or near their former school by one of the class on or around an anniversary of their graduation. Former teachers may be invited as well...

s are popular events at many institutions. They are usually organized by alumni association
Alumni association
An alumni association is an association of graduates or, more broadly, of former students. In the United Kingdom and the United States, alumni of universities, colleges, schools , fraternities, and sororities often form groups with alumni from the same organisation...

s and are often social occasions for fundraising
Fundraising or fund raising is the process of soliciting and gathering voluntary contributions as money or other resources, by requesting donations from individuals, businesses, charitable foundations, or governmental agencies...


Related terms

At most UK independent schools
Independent school (UK)
An independent school is a school that is not financed through the taxation system by local or national government and is instead funded by private sources, predominantly in the form of tuition charges, gifts and long-term charitable endowments, and so is not subject to the conditions imposed by...

, New Zealand schools, Sri Lankan schools, a few universities in the UK, and to a lesser extent in Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, the phrases old boy
Old boy network
An old boy network, or society, can refer to social and business connections among former pupils of male-only private schools. British public school students were traditionally called "boys", thus graduated students are "old boys"....

and old girl are traditionally used for former school pupils, and old member or member (or "alumnus" in Australia and New Zealand) for former university students. Some Australian co-educational schools use the gender-neutral old scholar. At the Royal Military College of Canada
Royal Military College of Canada
The Royal Military College of Canada, RMC, or RMCC , is the military academy of the Canadian Forces, and is a degree-granting university. RMC was established in 1876. RMC is the only federal institution in Canada with degree granting powers...

, the phrases ex-cadet or 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
Virginia Military Institute
The Virginia Military Institute , located in Lexington, Virginia, is the oldest state-supported military college and one of six senior military colleges in the United States. Unlike any other military college in the United States—and in keeping with its founding principles—all VMI students are...

. Owing to this general restriction of the phrase to schools for the few the phrase is normally associated with the aristocracy of the UK.

The term "Old Boys" is also used as part of many sporting associations and clubs worldwide. Famous examples include Argentine football club Newell's Old Boys
Newell's Old Boys
Club Atlético Newell's Old Boys is an Argentine sports club based in Rosario. The club was founded on November 3, 1903, and is named after Isaac Newell, one of the pioneers of Argentine football...

 and New Zealand rugby union club High School Old Boys RFC
High School Old Boys RFC
High School Old Boys is a Rugby Union Football club based in Christchurch, New Zealand. The club was founded in 1900 by former students of Christchurch Boys' High School. Whilst many current members are former CBHS students, Old Boys is an open club accepting both male and female players of all...


Some schools use a specific term clearly linked to the school name, such as "Old Etonian," "Old Harrovian," "Old Carthusian," "Old Oswestrian," "Old Churcherian," "Old Knox Grammarian," "Old Colcestrian," or "Old Reptonian" (old boys of Eton College
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

, Harrow School
Harrow School
Harrow School, commonly known simply as "Harrow", is an English independent school for boys situated in the town of Harrow, in north-west London.. The school is of worldwide renown. There is some evidence that there has been a school on the site since 1243 but the Harrow School we know today was...

, Charterhouse School
Charterhouse School
Charterhouse School, originally The Hospital of King James and Thomas Sutton in Charterhouse, or more simply Charterhouse or House, is an English collegiate independent boarding school situated at Godalming in Surrey.Founded by Thomas Sutton in London in 1611 on the site of the old Carthusian...

, Oswestry School
Oswestry School
Oswestry School is a co-educational independent school, located in the town of Oswestry, Shropshire, England. Founded in 1407 by David Holbache and his wife Guinevere Holbache, it is the second oldest non-denominational school in England....

, Churcher's College
Churcher's College
Churcher's College is an English co-educational independent, fee-paying school which is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference . The senior school is located in the market town of Petersfield, Hampshire with the junior school in nearby Liphook...

, Knox Grammar School
Knox Grammar School
Knox Grammar School is an independent, Uniting Church, day and boarding school for boys, located in Wahroonga, an upper North Shore suburb of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia....

, Colchester Royal Grammar School
Colchester Royal Grammar School
Colchester Royal Grammar School is a grammar school in Colchester, Essex, founded in AD 1206 and granted two Royal Charters by Henry VIII and by Elizabeth I .-Admissions:...

 and Repton School
Repton School
Repton School, founded in 1557, is a co-educational English independent school for both day and boarding pupils, in the British public school tradition, located in the village of Repton, in Derbyshire, in the Midlands area of England...

); or a more obscure one, such as "Old Citizen" and "Old Gregorian" for those of the City of London School
City of London School
The City of London School is a boys' independent day school on the banks of the River Thames in the City of London, England. It is the brother school of the City of London School for Girls and the co-educational City of London Freemen's School...

 and Downside School
Downside School
Downside School is a co-educational Catholic independent school for children aged 11 to 18, located in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, between Norton Radstock and Shepton Mallet in Somerset, south west England. It is attached to Downside Abbey...

. Other UK examples include "Old Alleynian" (Dulwich College
Dulwich College
Dulwich College is an independent school for boys in Dulwich, southeast London, England. The college was founded in 1619 by Edward Alleyn, a successful Elizabethan actor, with the original purpose of educating 12 poor scholars as the foundation of "God's Gift". It currently has about 1,600 boys,...

), "Old Blue" (Christ's Hospital), "Old Dunumian" (Down High School
Down High School
'Down High School, also called DHS and Down High Grammar School, is a controlled co-educational Grammar School located in Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland...

), "Old Novocastrian" (Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne), "Old Mid" (Trinity School of John Whitgift
Trinity School of John Whitgift
The Trinity School of John Whitgift, usually referred to as Trinity School, is a British independent boys' day school with a co-educational Sixth Form, located in Shirley Park, Croydon. The current building was constructed in 1965 on the site of the former Shirley Hotel...

) and "Old Elizabethan" (Queen Elizabeth's Hospital
Queen Elizabeth's Hospital
Queen Elizabeth's Hospital is an independent school for boys in Clifton, Bristol, England founded in 1586. Stephen Holliday has served as Headmaster since 2000, having succeeded Dr Richard Gliddon...


In Scotland the term former pupil (FP) is also used, especially when referring to sports teams of a school.

Some US schools, such as Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University is a coeducational public research university located in College Station, Texas . It is the flagship institution of the Texas A&M University System. The sixth-largest university in the United States, A&M's enrollment for Fall 2011 was over 50,000 for the first time in school...

, prefer Former Student.

The World Student Christian Federation
World Student Christian Federation
The World Student Christian Federation is a federation of autonomous national Student Christian Movements forming the youth and student arm of the global ecumenical movement...

uses the term "senior friends" for its alumni.
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