alum·​nus ə-ˈləm-nəs How to pronounce alumnus (audio)
plural alumni ə-ˈləm-ˌnī How to pronounce alumnus (audio)
: a person who has attended or has graduated from a particular school, college, or university
an alumnus of Columbia University
usually used of a man in the singular but often of men and women in the plural
: a person who is a former member, employee, contributor, or inmate
a Saturday Night Live alumnus

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Alumnus or Alumna?

Many people are comfortable using the word alumni to refer to someone who was a student of a particular school. However, others feel quite strongly that this is an error and that the following forms should be used: alumnus (for one male), alumni (for multiple males, or for a mix of males and females), alumna (for one female), and alumnae (for multiple females). The shortened form alum and its plural form alums began to be used in the 19th century. Initially, alum was widely viewed as highly colloquial or informal, but is increasing in use as a gender-neutral alternative.

Examples of alumnus in a Sentence

Her parents are alumni of the state university.
Recent Examples on the Web Last year for the 10th anniversary, Prince William attended a symposium bringing together the 2022 award winners, alumni from previous awards and conservation experts. Simon Perry, Peoplemag, 27 Nov. 2023 Some recent doxing at other colleges and universities has called for alumni of colleges not to hire pro-Palestinian students. Laura Strickler, NBC News, 25 Nov. 2023 Jana Mathews, a professor of Medieval literature at Rollins College, checks the bathrooms to coax out students hiding from the big event in her Job Market Boot Camp class, a mixer with alumni to practice professional networking. Tara Weiss, WSJ, 20 Nov. 2023 Among the network’s alumni, the national group can come off as informal. Alan Blinder, New York Times, 17 Nov. 2023 In the previous three seasons this notion has been presented in the media and pushed by alumni and flat-out screamed from the empty bleachers at the Rose Bowl. Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times, 13 Nov. 2023 The call for reforms at Harvard from alumni comes as other schools have seen funds withdrawn from benefactors for not acting quickly enough to squelch antisemitism on campus. Chris Morris, Fortune, 13 Nov. 2023 By Jemima McEvoy, Forbes Staff The University of Connecticut announced its single biggest gift ever on October 6, a $40 million donation from one of its alumni to build a new nursing school facility. Jemima McEvoy, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 Harvard University has been accused of dragging its feet to address antisemitism on campus—and that could end up costing it dearly in terms of alumni support. Chris Morris, Fortune, 13 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'alumnus.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin, foster son, pupil, from alere to nourish — more at old

First Known Use

1645, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of alumnus was in 1645

Dictionary Entries Near alumnus

Cite this Entry

“Alumnus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


alum·​nus ə-ˈləm-nəs How to pronounce alumnus (audio)
plural alumni -ˌnī How to pronounce alumnus (audio)
: a person who has attended or has graduated from a particular school, college, or university

Latin, literally "foster son," from alere "to nourish" — related to alimentary, alma mater

More from Merriam-Webster on alumnus

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