Alma mater

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Alma mater (Template:Lang-la; pl. [rarely used] almae matres) is an allegorical Latin phrase for a university, school, or college that one formerly attended.[1] In US usage, it can also mean the school from which one graduated.[2] The phrase is variously translated as "nourishing mother", "nursing mother", or "fostering mother", suggesting that a school provides intellectual nourishment to its students.[3] Fine arts will often depict educational institutions using a robed woman.

Before its current usage, alma mater was an honorific title for various Latin mother goddesses, especially Ceres or Cybele,[4] and later in Catholicism for the Virgin Mary. It entered academic usage when the University of Bologna adopted the motto Alma Mater Studiorum ("nurturing mother of studies"), which describes its heritage as the oldest operating university in the Western world.[5] It is related to alumnus, a term used for a university graduate that literally means a "nursling" or "one who is nourished".[6]


  1. "alma", Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  2. "alma mater". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved March 14, 2019. "A school, college, or university which one has attended or from which one has graduated" 
  3. Ayto, John (2005). Word Origins (2nd ed.). London: A&C Black. ISBN 9781408101605. Retrieved 18 May 2015. 
  4. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition
  5. "Our history – University of Bologna". Retrieved 8 November 2017. 
  6. Cresswell, Julia (2010). Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins. Oxford University Press. p. 12. Retrieved 18 May 2015.