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Commencement can be a confusing word. We will examine the meaning of the word commencement, its ancient roots, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Most literally, commencement means the beginning of something. However, the word commencement is most often used to refer to the graduation ceremony for college and university graduates. The term commencement to mean a graduation ceremony dates to medieval times. During medieval times, students at university were considered apprentices. When an apprentice graduated, he became a university master or doctor and was licensed to teach, meaning his career commenced. The word commencement is derived from the Old French word comencement, which means the start. The word commencement is different from the word graduation, in that commencement only refers to the ceremony. Graduation refers to having completed the process of fulfilling all the academic and financial obligations necessary to earn a degree, the ceremony celebrating this act is called a graduation ceremony or commencement.


About 100 students at the University of Notre Dame walked out of their commencement ceremony on Sunday, an action that was part of a peaceful protest of the featured speaker, Vice President Pence, and the administration he represents. (The Washington Post)

A light rain fell on and off throughout Yale’s outdoor Commencement ceremony on the Old Campus on May 22, and there was even a bit of “thunder” — in the form of applause and music only — as celebrating students gave several rousing standing ovations, and as Yale Concert Band drummers rhythmically beat their instruments while leading the academic procession of the soon-to-be graduates. (Yale News)

After decades of working in the entertainment industry, Boston University commencement speaker Bonnie Hammer invited the class of 2017 to frame their future as a good story that has yet to be written. (The Boston Globe)