Alma mater (UK / / or US / /; Latin: "nourishing mother") was used in ancient Rome as a title for various mother goddesses, especially Ceres or Cybele,1 and in Christianity for the Virgin Mary. In the modern language in North America, it is often any school, college, or university at which one has studied, and usually, from which one has graduated.2 The term may also refer to a song or hymn associated with a school.3
The expression is almost always used in the singular form, but the Latin plural is almae matres.
Alma mater is not a generally used term in Britain as it is in the United States, the terms "school" and "university" being preferred. Outside the US, "school" does not usually refer to university or college. For this reason, if in Britain you are asked "where did you go to school" you are not being asked which university you went to, but which secondary school (high school), e.g. Eton, you went to.
Alma Mater Studiorum ("Nourishing Mother of Studies") is the motto of the University of Bologna,4 the oldest continually operating university in the world, and other European universities, such as the Alma Mater Lipsiensis in Leipzig, Germany, or Alma Mater Jagiellonica, Poland, have also used the expression in their names.
Alma Mater Europaea is an international university founded by the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in 2010. Its seat is in Salzburg, Austria, but most of its 800 students study at university's Slovenian campus called Alma Mater Europaea - Evropsko sredisce Maribor.
On the campus of Columbia University on the steps of Low Library there is a well known bronze statue of Alma Mater by Daniel Chester French. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also has an Alma Mater statue by Lorado Taft. A mural in Yale University's Sterling Memorial Library depicts the Alma Mater as a bearer of light and truth standing in the midst of the personified arts and sciences, painted in 1932 by Eugene Savage. Outside the United States there is another sculpture of Alma Mater on the steps of the monumental entrance to the Universidad de La Habana, in Havana, Cuba. The statue was cast in 1919 by Mario Korbel, and installed in its current scenic location in 1927 above the direction of architect Raul Otero.
- Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition
- Alma mater | Define Alma mater at Dictionary.com Dictionary.com. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
- Alma mater - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
- University of Bologna