I'm looking for term to describe students which didn't study theoretical physics, but who learned physics in school. These are last years school and first years university students with major physics. Is there a word for this?

  • 1
    Welcome to EL&U. Your question is a little unclear. Do you mean students who have been exposed to secondary school-level physics but not university-level physics? Also, abiturient is not a common term in educational systems which are based on the British or American models; depending on the context, in the U.S. we could call them high school graduates, pre-freshmen / pre-frosh, or rising freshmen.
    – choster
    Apr 9, 2014 at 15:24
  • @choster: I removed abiturients. You got what I meant correctly: I need a word for "students who have been exposed to secondary school-level physics but not university-level physics".
    – Adobe
    Apr 9, 2014 at 15:59
  • Physics 201 students? I think it depends on the school. Apr 9, 2014 at 20:19
  • Does it have to be physics? Are they finished secondary school and have started at university? If so I think it definitely depends on school as well as country. Where I'm from we would call these people "First-years" or "Stage 1 students", or maybe, informally (and a little insultingly) "101 students".
    – nxx
    Apr 10, 2014 at 1:51

1 Answer 1


The generic term for first-year university students in the United States is "freshmen":

freshman — first-year student: a student in the first year of high school or college

You can use this within the context of a specific major:

Our physics freshmen are...

The term for last year schooling in the United States is "high-school senior" or "high-school graduate" depending on when graduation takes place. The relevant terms, chronologically:

  • Before high-school graduation: senior, graduates
  • After high-school graduation: high-school graduates
  • Shortly before university starts: incoming freshmen, high-school graduates
  • After university starts: freshmen

If you need exactly one term, the closest match is "incoming freshmen" which refers to any student that will be a freshmen after the school year starts in the fall.

There is another relevant term that refers to first- or second-year students at university:

underclassmen — freshman or sophomore: somebody in either of the first two years of university

Aside from these terms, the most appropriate would be words similar to "novice" -- of which there are many synonyms.

  • It would be helpful if you mention where in the world freshman is used in the context of university or college. This word is unfamiliar in the UK.
    – Tristan r
    Apr 22, 2014 at 17:36
  • The word "Freshman" is (sometimes at least) used in Cambridge to refer to first years. I have seen photographs of the first year titled "Freshmen" etc. May 18 at 11:57

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