Alma mater

Alma mater (Latin: alma mater, lit.‚ÄČ'nourishing mother'; pl. [rarely used] almae matres) is an allegorical Latin phrase currently used to identify a school, college or university that one formerly attended, or graduated from.[1][2] The phrase is variously translated as "nourishing mother", "nursing mother", or "fostering mother", suggesting that a school provides intellectual nourishment to her students.[3]

Alma Mater statue by Daniel Chester French, 1903, Columbia University, New York City

Before its current use, alma mater was an honorific title for various mother goddesses, especially Ceres or Cybele.[4] Later, in Catholicism, it became a title of Mary, mother of Jesus.

The term entered academic use when the University of Bologna adopted the motto Alma Mater Studiorum ("nurturing mother of studies"), to celebrate the university's historic status as the oldest and longest continuously operating university in the world.[5]

The term is related to alumnus, literally meaning a "nursling" or "one who is nourished", that frequently is used for a graduate.[6]


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