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How to Use Alumnus, Alumna, Alumni and Alumnae and Not Sound Like a Total Idiot

Want to really make yourself sound like you didn’t really deserve your degree? Use the words Alumnus, Alumna, Alumni or Alumnae wrong in a job interview, social media bio or resume.

This is a very common mistake and honestly it is often hard to remember the right use, so we at Watch The Yard created this really quick rundown of how to correctly talk about graduates.


The title alumnus is a Latin word meaning student. The Latin root of this word is masculine, so it refers to male graduates. If you’re referring to one man who graduated from a college or university you would use this word.

Example: “Sam is an alumnus of Morehouse College.”


The Latin word for graduates is traditionally male. When referring to one woman, the correct traditional feminine form would be alumna. The plural form of alumna is alumnae.

Example: “Kim is an Alumna of Spelman College.”


Alumni  applies to a group of men or a group that consists of men and women but not a group of just women, for that see alumnae.

Example: This party is full of Howard alumni!


Alumnae refers to a group of two or more former students who are women. You will see this used when referring to the graduates of women’s colleges or the titles of graduate chapters of sororities like Delta Sigma Theta.

Example: There are a lot of Spelman alumnae who relocate to DC after graduation.


People also shorten the words alumnus, alumna, alumnae, or alumni to just alum. Please note that alum is pretty informal.

Here is a very simple graphic explaining it: