Alma mater

Alma mater

[ahl-muh mah-ter, al-; al-muh mey-ter]
Alma mater is Latin for "nourishing mother". It was used in ancient Rome as a title for the mother goddess, and in Medieval Christianity for the Virgin Mary. In modern times it is used to refer to the university or college a person attends or attended. It also can refer to a song about a college or university similar to a fight song.


This term is derived from the motto ("Alma Mater Studiorum", meaning Nourishing Mother of Studies) of the world's oldest, continuously-operating, degree-granting university: the University of Bologna, in Italy, founded in A.D. 1088, which is located in the city of Bologna. It is also a term used in the Latin society.

Uses in academia

As a reference to an academic institution

In many modern languages it is usually and principally heard as a term of academia; thus, in the English language, it is often used in place of the name of the university or college a person has attended or graduated from. In American English, it may also be used in reference to the high school that an individual has attended.

As a song

In addition to this, alma mater may be the incipit, or the first line, of a school's anthem or song, and may be taken as a title for the genre. The term is more familiar in the United States than in the United Kingdom. In the United States, the term often refers to the entire school song as opposed to simply the opening.

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