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I was wondering whether alma mater refers to all the schools you have been in, or just to college.

For example, suppose someone has an undergranduate degree from one institution, a masters degree from another, and a PhD from yet a third; would all three of those count as his alma mater?

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closed as general reference by John Lawler, Gnawme, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, MετάEd, tchrist Jan 10 '13 at 7:22

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Foster Mother. From Latin. – John Lawler Jan 10 '13 at 0:28
ok, but how is it used nowadays? – Carry on Smiling Jan 10 '13 at 0:29
@JohnLawler: Yes, but in the sense of "feeding", not necessarily "adoptive". – Cerberus Jan 10 '13 at 0:55
I was just researching this topic for personal reasons. "Alma mater" is almost exclusively used for baccalaureate programs. I found example that used Harvard Law School, but that page uses Harvard in all their examples. I couldn't find any other examples of graduate programs referred to as alma maters--Can they be? Or do people just usually not have that much of an emotional connection to their grad programs to use that terminology for those schools? – miltonaut Dec 30 '14 at 11:23
If this question is closed because it's too basic and can be answered by a single link, where is that link? The accepted answer has not addressed the issue of graduate schools. – puri Jun 12 '15 at 18:10
up vote 3 down vote accepted

It is normally only used for a college or university, not for a high school; the last would sound a bit silly and pretentious. However, silly and pretentious can be humorous, so talking about your primary school as your alma mater can be appropriate if you are being ironic.

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This is becoming a relatively common practice on Monday Night Football here in the U.S. They have a tradition of "introducing" each team's starters with a video snippet, where the player states his name and alma mater (e.g., "Tony Romo, Eastern Illinois University"). Some time back, a few players started saying the names of their high school instead (e.g., "Andy Dalton, Katy High School"). As that practice was copied more and more, a few players took it one step further in the humor department; I've heard some players say the likes of, "John Smith, Westover Elementary." – J.R. Jan 10 '13 at 10:46
@J.R.: Hah, that's great! Next will be kindergartens... – Cerberus Jan 10 '13 at 15:38

It is usually used to describe a school or college from which an individual has graduated or which they have attended.

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