Talk:Alma mater

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Current version of the article is little more than a dictionary definition. I have redirected to List of Latin phrases#A. If/when someone has enough more to say to turn this into a full stand-alone article, please revert this redirect to the prior version. Rossami 21:46, 1 Jun 2004 (UTC)


Cleanup recommended. This article is all over the place. In definite need of disambiguation, reorganization. jareha 06:24, 5 November 2005 (UTC)

I've disambiguated this article. Would like to know if there's a consensus that cleanup is complete. jareha 00:45, 9 November 2005 (UTC)
Removed cleanup tag. jareha 22:38, 5 December 2005 (UTC)

latin usage[edit]

I was taught that latin often did not use capital letters- should we refer to it as 'alma mater', or am I missing something? :)

The 2 dictionaries I checked (the Oxford American Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary) both list both the capitalized and lowercase spellings as correct. According the normal rules for English spelling, it is not a proper noun nor perceived by a normal native speaker as being derived from one, so the preferred spelling would be lowercase.
The conventions of the Latin language are irrelevant. When a word is borrowed into another language, it adopts the conventions that the borrowing language assigns to it, which may be the same as or closer to either the original or the borrowing language. This often corresponds to, but is not necessarily a function of, the degree to which the borrowed word has been nativized. In English, this is usually rule governed, but can vary on a case-by-case basis.Bostoner (talk) 01:57, 26 August 2008 (UTC)
More to the point, the assertion is completely wrong. Latin was written only in capital letters. Later, cursive script was invented, and this evolved into the upper/lower case conventions we have today. — Chameleon 05:14, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

Actually "Alma" in latin means "Soul". Alma Mater means "The mother of the soul". -- (talk) 19:00, 20 April 2017 (UTC)

2007-01-31 Automated pywikipediabot message[edit]

--CopyToWiktionaryBot 22:45, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Matriculation, from the Latin ???[edit]

I am confused, this page says

 "The word matriculation is derived from the Latin root word mater."

But the "matricualtion" page says

 "Matriculation, ..., from the Latin matrix" meaning "list" or "register"

Are they both right? How?

BTW, one of the old meanings of "matrix" appears to be "womb"

From the "mater" page

 māter (genitive mātris); f, third declension

At any rate, I'm confused - clarification would be appreiciated :)

Q Science 18:47, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

MÁ → MÁTER → MÁTRIX → MÁTRICVLA → MÁTRICVLÁTIÓChameleon 05:16, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

British English[edit]

I have never once heard this phrase being used in the UK Cls14 23:44, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

The OED has the following definition for Alma mater:
" A title given by the Romans to several goddesses, especially to Ceres and Cybele, and transferred in Eng. to Universities and schools regarded as ‘fostering mothers’ to their alumni."
(emphasis added). I would tend to trust the OED when it comes to British English. The term is commonly used in the second sense in all varieties of English. --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 12:14, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
Alma mater is a common expression in British English, used to describe one's school, college, university, or similar place of education.--Oxonian2006 (talk) 22:49, 19 September 2008 (UTC)

In my experience, Alma Mater is rarely used in British English except in a mock-pretentious, jocular sense. It's not used in Who's Who and I've not seen it other British biographical reference books. I find it rather jarring that Wikipedia uses it in British biographical pages, and I would rather it be replaced with "Educated". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:40, 23 July 2010 (UTC)

I have to agree with above comment - I've never heard this used in UK English and it's incongruous to see it on British bios. (talk) 00:02, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

Agreed. Obviously the term is usually understood in the UK but only the very pretentious would use it or those using it in a jocular manner. By and large this is a term used in the USA.-- (talk) 13:52, 20 May 2012 (UTC)
I would have to agree. The fact that I've needed to come and look up what the term means, tells me that outside of the "old" universities (Oxford, Cambridge, possibly UCL) the term just simply is *not* used in the UK. Furthermore, taking in to account that I'm educated to degree level and having worked in London for over 10 years, no one I've come in to contact with on a professional level (financial area, Software engineering) has used the term "Alma Mater" when referring to their education. Memsom (talk) 15:02, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
Agreed. It isn't part of global English and so shouldn't be used as a standard category in Wikipedia. Similarly, British writers shouldn't talk about going up to a particular Oxford or Cambridge college. That phrase isn't even mainstream British English but is part of the language of an exclusive group (many of whom went to those colleges!). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:53, 7 November 2016 (UTC)
I also strongly agree. I came to this page as a result of seeing Alma Mater used in the infobox of a bio of a British MP. It really jarred. The term is broadly undestood in the UK but isn't much used. It is perceived as an Americanism, in a similar way to 'majoring' in a subject or referring to a university as a 'school'. --Ef80 (talk) 17:15, 8 December 2016 (UTC)

two universities, one alma mater?[edit]

Assume someone went to college at C University and then professional school at P University, business/law/medical/etc. (and assume that both schools are in e.g. the USA). Is C the only "alma mater" because e.g. generally a person has only one mother? (Of course we are merely speaking here of general usage, and any resulting general conclusion would always be subject to exceptions, e.g. where the person declared a greater affinity to P.) The article is basically silent on this question, and other reference sources i looked at left me with the question. Thanks. Bo99 (talk) 18:24, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

Your alma mater is where you received your first undergradate degree. Graduate school/postgrad professional school doesn't count. - Maggie -- (talk) 00:03, 29 April 2008 (UTC)
Can someone find a reference to back up Maggie so we can put this important discriminant on the article page. After all, this designation is part of the biography template in common use; users should find this answer in the lead of the article (for efficiency sake).Rgdboer (talk) 00:12, 27 June 2008 (UTC)
I think Maggie is being rather silly. I don't know what she means by, 'Graduate school/postgrad professional school doesn't count.' I am happy to speak of my several almae matres.--Oxonian2006 (talk) 22:49, 19 September 2008 (UTC)

I think this issue is unclear.... maybe because there is no official opinion on it. What about one who attended a college/university, but earned no degrees? Additionally the University of Bologna is credited for he phrase "alma mater." However, the wikipedia article for the University of Bologna says the university did not adopt the phrase "Alma Mater Studiorum" until 2000. Obviously, this term has existed longer than 8 years. James (talk) 01:21, 11 October 2008 (UTC)
Maggie is right about usage in the USA. Suppose one got a bachelor's degree from University A and a doctoral degree from University B, then A is the alma mater, for which one may go to class reunions, etc. In some WP articles about professors in the United States, the "Alma Mater" is given as University B, perhaps the articles were written by editors from outside the US? (Please excuse boldface, accidental) Marlindale (talk) 03
43, 15 March 2016 (UTC)

Sourcing lyrics[edit]

Is it permissible to use well-known lyrics websites as a reference for song lyrics? I am particularly thinking of the section in this article that mentions Chuck Berry's use of the phrase in his song "My Ding-a-Ling". He also uses it in his song "Oh Baby Doll", which was a minor hit in 1957. I'd like to add this information, but how can I source it? As most lyrics websites rely on user- or bot-generated content, how reliable are they? Estesark (talk) 09:58, 12 July 2008 (UTC)

Unless the phrase is particulary slurred the fact that it appears can be sourced using primary sources. Ie. use the song as the source. Take care with due weight and stuff like that though. Taemyr (talk) 11:23, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

removing 'In Popular Music' section[edit]

Let's be honest, the 'In Popular Music' of this article is trivia. It's not an exhaustive list of references, and it's not intended to be - it certainly is never destined to become one, and it's arguable whether that goal is even beneficial to this article (beyond a 'see also' link). My instinct is to just get rid of it - SOP suggests integrating relevant facts into the article itself. Are there any of the items in this section that are worth keeping? Some of them (I'm looking at 'Immortal Technique's' lyrics here in particular) are totally inane and inconsequential.

Anyone see anything worthwhile about this section? MattLohkamp 09:56, 9 January 2009 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Matt.lohkamp (talkcontribs)

Alright, I'll remove it, let's discuss if anyone objects. - matt lohkamp 02:58, 12 January 2009 (UTC)
Agreed. After two and one-half years, this section was inexplicably reinstated: "01:55, 24 July 2011 Michael C Price (talk | contribs) (5,491 bytes) (→Monuments: music)"; I've removed it once again. Its inclusion is jarring, inconsistent, and seemingly against wiki policy. If someone wishes to argue for it, I think it would be worthwhile to hear, and I encourage that discussion. Jeffbadge (talk) 21:34, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
I thought it was interesting. -- cheers, Michael C. Price talk 23:39, 1 August 2011 (UTC)
Fair enough. After reading through WP:IPC, I've marked this section with the appropriate template for further consideration. Each item here should be compared against the standards suggested at WP:IPC and, perhaps with some editing, included if found to measure up. However, those which don't meet the bar should be elided in favor of a more succinct article in service to its subject. -Jeffbadge (talk) 17:12, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

As a song?[edit]

I don't believe "alma mater" ever refers to a song. Not only is "solid evidence" lacking, even the webpage referred to doesn't mention "alma mater". I'm deleting the whole section. Unfree (talk) 01:14, 3 July 2009 (UTC)

The Merriam-Webster dictionary reference does include the song meaning (although I've never heard it used that way either). - (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 20:47, 16 October 2009 (UTC).

University of Bologna and associated historical claim[edit]

The article talks about a statue erected a few years ago. Why? This seems like non-notable trivia to me. I suggest deleting it. (And the dubious claim about the university itself being the oldest university seems completely irrelevant.) - (talk) 20:07, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

I just looked at that claim again - it was about being the oldest Western university, not the oldest university. So maybe the claim is not so dubious, but who really cares? I still think that this trivia doesn't belong in an article about the term alma mater. I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of times that the term alma mater has been used (including for the two other statues depicted in the article). What makes this particular recently-erected statue important enough to get discussed on this page (especially when it isn't one of the statues that shows up in the pictures)? And (especially) why should the article include a discussion of the age of the university where that statue sits? I'm going to proceed to remove this material from the article. - (talk) 20:21, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
I guess it wasn't a statue - it was a motto. I suppose I was confusing the remark with other material in the same paragraph about other places having statues. Anyhow, I edited the article to remove the irrelevant material from the University of Bologna discussion and reduce its prominence, without removing the mention altogether. - (talk) 20:34, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
The claim in the citation is that it's the oldest university in the Western world, not the Western hemisphere, so I've fixed that. (Besides, the usual standard is "continuous operation" and in that respect the University of Karueein in Morocco is several centuries older.) --Steve Foerster (talk) 20:08, 12 June 2017 (UTC)

Definition of Alma Mater no OR please.[edit]

Michael, what do you think you are doing? Use relaible sources like the Webster dictionary and avoid OR. An educational institute attended by an individual IS indeed an Alma Mater, (See for example Bill Gates,) gratuation is secondary, although it usually occurs in most cases.Sfsupro (talk) 05:34, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

See Maggie's comment above, and see the example of Steven Weinberg - alma maters are listed as where he got his batchelors and doctorate, not every institute he has ever attended. (And Bill Gates only attended one, BTW.) --Michael C. Price talk 06:31, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

I understand your point perfectly well. But unitl the Webster dictionary changes the definition it has for Alma Mater, we have to avoid OR.Sfsupro (talk) 06:39, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
It's not OR if it's common usage.
BTW I see the definition "a school or college from which an individual has graduated or attended." at Wikidictionary. Why did they say "graduated" if it only means "attended"? Clearly the "or attended" is to cover drop-outs such as Bill Gates. And think about what "fostering mother" means.
--Michael C. Price talk 06:55, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
Wikitionary says the same thing that Webster does, although Webster is more authoritative. Your interpretation of the "meaning" is again, clearly OR. "fosterin mother" can mean a lot of things, to various people, but that is why we have a dictionary.Sfsupro (talk) 07:04, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
Shorter OED 3rd edition says: Universities and schools regarded as 'fostering mothers' to their alumni. Clearly attendance is not sufficient, and it is weighted heavily towards the early part of one's academic career. And yes, "fostering mothers" is subjective, which is why we have to look at common usage. (And that still doesn't make it OR, just to forstall your next comment.) --Michael C. Price talk 07:16, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

Actually "Alma" in latin means "Soul". Alma Mater means "The mother of the soul". -- (talk) 19:03, 20 April 2017 (UTC)

Should it be the specific college or the whole university?[edit]

If a person studied business at Cornell University, should their alma mater in their infobox be "Cornell University" or "Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management"? I believe that a more recognizable representation of a person's alma mater usually refers to the entire university, rather than the specific college of that university. I would rather tell others that I had attended Cornell, rather than saying that I attended the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, because more people recognize the name of Cornell than of its specific schools. I'd like to know other peoples' thoughts on this. :) Grenadetoenails (talk) 07:45, 24 July 2011 (UTC)

Why not do both, Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University? -- cheers, Michael C. Price talk 08:38, 24 July 2011 (UTC)

What is my Alma mater?[edit]

What is my Alma mater, if I receive my M.Sc. from University A, but my Ph.D. from University B? (talk) 22:32, 27 December 2011 (UTC)


"Alma Mater Studiorum ("Nourishing Mother of Studies") is the motto and original name of the University of Bologna." This appears to be only fifty per cent correct. The reference confirms that the university's motto is "Alma etc." but this was not its original name and was only adopted as a motto in recent years. In the Middle Ages it was commonly known as the Studium. I suggest removing the words "and original name" Campolongo (talk) 10:09, 20 November 2012 (UTC)Campolongo

"Alma" in latin means "soul". -- (talk) 19:06, 20 April 2017 (UTC)


In my understanding of WP:ITALICS, the term "alma mater" should not be italicised. This article here is inconsistent it its use of italic type; I suggest to drop it consistently. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 13:42, 20 December 2013 (UTC)


As far as I'm informed, alumnus means without light. I guess its usage in the anglophone world has been done pretty much wrongly for a long time. For a Romance language speaker, it's hard to conceive this word not as "deprived from light" but as "the one who got nourished", specially because it cannot be used for the graduate, but for students under the process of being taught. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:47, 6 May 2017‎

You are misinformed; see alumnus and every dictionary. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 22:55, 6 May 2017 (UTC)


The article says that one's Alma mater is "a school or university which an individual has attended".

So if I went to Brown, Harvard, and Princeton, say, for my BA, MA, and PhD respectively, what is my Alma mater?

This definition seems strange to me. ---Dagme (talk) 04:38, 20 June 2017 (UTC)