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alumnus

[ uh-luhm-nuhs ]
/ əˈlʌm nəs /
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noun, plural a·lum·ni [uh-luhm-nahy]. /əˈlʌm naɪ/.
a graduate or former student of a specific school, college, or university, especially a male.
a former associate, employee, member, or the like: He invited all the alumni of the library staff to the party.
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Origin of alumnus

First recorded in 1600–10; from Latin: “foster son, pupil,” equivalent to al- (stem of alere “to suckle, feed, support”) + -u- (from stem-vowel *-o- in interior syllable) + -m(i)nus, originally passive participial suffix, akin to Greek -menos; cf. adult, alimony

usage note for alumnus

Alumnus (in Latin a masculine noun) usually refers to a male graduate or former student; the plural is alumni. An alumna (in Latin a feminine noun) refers to a female graduate or former student; the plural is alumnae. Traditionally, the masculine plural alumni has been used for groups composed of both sexes and is still widely so used: the alumni of Indiana University. Sometimes, to avoid any suggestion of sexism, both terms are used for mixed groups: the alumni/alumnae of Indiana University or the alumni and alumnae of Indiana University. Some people use the less formal abbreviation alum and its plural alums to avoid the complexities of the Latin forms and their unfamiliar gender inflection. Others use the terms graduate and graduates, though they are not quite equivalent in meaning, to eliminate any need for using a masculine plural form to refer to both sexes.

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH alumnus

alum, alumna, alumnae, alumni , alumnus
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

ALUMNUS VS. ALUMNI VS. ALUMNA VS. ALUMNAE VS. ALUM

What’s the difference between alumnus and alumni?

An alumnus is a graduate of a school, such as a high school or university. The plural of alumnus is alumni (which follows the plural ending construction used in other Latin-derived words, like stimulus and stimuli).

In Latin, alumnus specifically refers to a male graduate, and sometimes this distinction is carried into English, with alumna being used to refer to a female graduate. The plural of alumna is alumnae.

Still, alumnus and alumni are both commonly used in a gender-neutral way.

The informal shortening alum is used to refer to a single graduate (regardless of gender). It’s sometimes pluralized as alums.

Here’s an example of alumnus and alumni used correctly in the same sentence.

Example: As an alumnus, you share something with all of the alumni, regardless of when each of you graduated. 

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between alumnus and alumni.

Quiz yourself on alumnus vs. alumni!

Should alumnus or alumni be used in the following sentence?

The five-year reunion is usually well attended by _____.

How to use alumnus in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for alumnus

alumnus
/ (əˈlʌmnəs) /

noun plural -ni (-naɪ)
mainly US and Canadian a graduate of a school, college, etc

Word Origin for alumnus

C17: from Latin: nursling, pupil, foster son, from alere to nourish
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
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