alma mater

[ ahl-muh-mah-ter, al-; al-muh-mey-ter ]
/ ˈɑl mə ˈmɑ tər, ˈæl-; ˈæl mə ˈmeɪ tər /
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a school, college, or university at which one has studied and, usually, from which one has graduated.
the official anthem of a school, college, or university.
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Origin of alma mater

<Latin: nourishing (i.e., dear) mother
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does alma mater mean?

An alma mater is the school, college, or university that someone has graduated from.

It’s most commonly used to refer to a college or university, but it can also refer to a high school.

The term is associated with pride in one’s school. It’s often used by those who network and keep in touch with other graduates and continue to identify as a graduate of the school after they have left.

The term alma mater can also refer to the official song of a school, college, or university.

Example: Since Jade graduated from Temple University, she has not stopped talking about her alma mater.

Where does alma mater come from?

The first records of the term alma mater come from the 1600s. The phrase is Latin and translates as “nourishing mother” (alma can also be interpreted as “dear,” “kind,” or “bountiful”). The English word mother is derived from mater.

What does a nourishing mother have to do with the school you graduated from?

The term Alma Mater was originally used in Ancient Rome as a way of referring to certain goddesses associated with nourishment, including Ceres and Cybele (Cybele was sometimes also referred to as Magna Mater, meaning “great mother”). Later, the term alma mater was applied to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Eventually, it was applied to schools and universities, presumably in reference to their role as places of intellectual nourishment. Relatedly, the word alumnus, referring to a graduate of a specific school, comes from the Latin word alere, meaning “to nourish.”

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What are some synonyms for alma mater?

  • school song
  • school anthem

What are some words that share a root or word element with alma mater


What are some words that often get used in discussing alma mater?


How is alma mater used in real life?

The term alma mater is typically used in reference to colleges and universities. It’s often associated with pride in the school where one graduated.



Try using alma mater!

True or False?

The term alma mater can refer to the high school that one graduated from.

How to use alma mater in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for alma mater

alma mater
/ (ˈælmə ˈmɑːtə, ˈmeɪtə) /

(often capitals) one's school, college, or university

Word Origin for alma mater

C17: from Latin: bountiful mother
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for alma mater

alma mater
[ (al-muh mah-tuhr, ahl-muh mah-tuhr) ]

The school or university from which one graduated. The term also refers to a school's official song: “The reunion began with everyone singing the alma mater.” From Latin, meaning “nurturing mother.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Other Idioms and Phrases with alma mater

alma mater

Also, Alma Mater. The school or college one attended and, usually, graduated from, as in During football season I always check to see how my alma mater is doing. This expression sometimes refers to the institution's official song, as in I never did learn the words to my college's alma mater. The term is Latin for “kind mother.” [c. 1800]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.