Alma Mater – Meaning, Spelling & Capitalization

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

What is an alma mater? It’s a strange term, isn’t it? It simply means the institution where you studied post-secondary education, like college or university. It’s no surprise universities often use Greek wording for things. But where did the term come from, and how do you use it properly? I’ll explain everything you need to know, including some examples and definitions of alma mater.

What Does Alma Mater Mean?

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The Latin term “alma mater” seriously means “nourishing mother,” so it’s fitting that we use it when referring to the schools we once attended for post-secondary education. The public school raised us, but we chose our colleges and universities, and it was there that we nourished our minds and developed the skills we now use in our adult lives.

How Do You Spell Alma Mater, and Should Alma Mater Be Capitalized?

When you’re using the term “alma mater,” always spell it with a lowercase “a” and “m,” like a-l-m-a and m-a-t-e-r. The only exception is when you’re using it as a proper noun in place of the school’s name or as a pronoun in addition to the school’s title.

What Is the Plural Form of Alma Mater?

The Latin plural is almae matres, and the English plural (the most commonly used version) is alma maters.

Where Do We Use Alma Mater?

If you’re talking or writing about your undergraduate or graduate institution, you can use the term alma mater to reference it instead of saying the school’s name. It’s also used in place of the official song of a school.

Alma Mater Etymology

The origin of the Latin terminology “alma mater” goes all the way back to the old world, where people used it to refer to the goddess of wisdom, learning, and education. Hence the translation of “nourishing mother.”

In medieval Europe, it was adopted to refer to a town’s main church or cathedral. It wasn’t until sometime in the 18th and 19th centuries that we began using it in reference to schools and universities.

What Is an Example of Alma Mater?

Let’s use my personal situation as an example. After high school, I headed off to Nova Scotia and attended Scotia College of Applied Arts & Technology. Now, that’s a mouthful to say, so when referring back to anything about my university, I could say my alma mater instead of telling the full name of the school.

What Are the Synonyms of Alma Mater?

Instead of using the term, be more straightforward and try any of these synonyms for alma mater that pretty much mean the same thing.

  • Old school
  • Mother school
  • College
  • School of origin
  • University
  • Place of learning
  • Place of education
  • High school
  • Post-secondary school 

Can Alma Mater Also Mean High School?

Absolutely! It’s used chiefly when referencing an institute like a college or university, but it’s also correct to use alma mater when talking about the high school you attended. 

Using Alma Mater in a Sentence

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  • I had such a wonderful experience at my alma mater, so I tried my best to stay connected with the school.
  • Every time I head back to my alma mater, I feel a sense of nostalgia and a deep connection to the place that taught me so much.
  • The professors at my alma mater were incredibly kind and supportive, and I’m grateful for the education I received there.
  • My alma mater is known for its amazing design programs in engineering and technology.
  • Whenever I meet someone who also attended my alma mater, we immediately start talking about how much we loved our time there.
  • I love to give back to my alma mater by serving on the board of directors for the alumni association.
  • I’m proud to say that my alma mater has been one of the top institutions in the province for several years in a row.
  • Let’s make a quick stop at my nearby alma mater and see if it’s still the same.

What’s Your Alma Mater?

I hope that helped clear up any confusion you had surrounding the term alma mater. Just remember that it can be used in place of the school’s name or even to refer to college and university in general.