April 5, 2011

Terminology Tuesday: It's All Greek to Me!

What is the correct term for one female graduate?  What about one male graduate?  What would you call a mixed group of graduates?  What about a group of all women who share the common bond of Alpha Phi?

This can be a murky business and we want to take a moment to shed some light!

Latin, like many other languages, has different words depending on if the subject is male or female.  They also have slightly different pronunciations. 

Alumna – One female graduate (Ah-lum-nuh)
Alumnae – More than one female graduate (Ah-lum-nee)
Alumnus – One male graduate (Ah-lum-nuss)
Alumni – More than one male or a mixed group of graduates (Ah-lum-neye)

Most often you will use either the term alumna or alumnae to describe the graduated members of your Alpha Phi chapter. You would use the term alumni when talking about all the graduates from your college or university.

Alumni is often incorrectly used as a singular form for both genders. This is most likely due to an ignorance of Latin grammar and the fact that printed documents and university materials almost always use the plural form of the word. But no matter how often you may hear others say it, you are NOT an alumni of Alpha Phi. You are an alumna.

On an interesting side note: at most UK independent schools and a few universities in the UK, and to a lesser extent in Australia and Canada, the phrases “old boy” and “old girl” are traditionally used for former school pupils. Alpha Phi will never call her members “old girls!”

We hope this has been interesting and helpful to you. Take the time to educate your sisters and fellow alumnae about the correct terminology!

Take this recap quiz to determine whether the picture should be categorized as alumni, alumnae, alumnus or alumna. Hint: there is one of each below, plus a trick question!






Answer key:
1. Alumnae 2. Alumnus 3. Alumni 4. Alumna 5. Alumni (even though the number of women is greater than the number of males in this group, this is still considered “mixed," and is thus considered a group of “alumni”).

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