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What do you call the best pupil in a class in a single word? The pupil who has the best grades. I need this word NOT to be pejorative, like nerd, geek, teacher's pet, and so on.

  • Teacher's pet isn't an insult... not really. And now nerd and geek are badges of honour (especially thanks to The Big Bang Theory show) – Mari-Lou A Oct 7 '14 at 13:33
  • If it were a competition, first place or first seat or first chair would be used. If there were a word for the superlative (best) student in a class, one might be disinclined to use it when there are better-known and better-used ways of expressing the same sentiment. Who would use this word? What problem does the answer to your question solve? – SrJoven Oct 7 '14 at 13:39
  • If this were Dutch Language & Usage, the answer would be “primus”. “Primus” is simply the Latin word for “first”, but in Dutch is often used as a description for the best pupil in a class, especially if he is male (the female equivalent, “prima”, is not used in that context). Most Latin words and expressions used in Dutch are also found in English; but alas! this is an exception. In English, “primus” mostly refers to the presiding bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church, although the longer expression “primus inter pares”, “first among equals”, can be used in more diverse situations. – Adhemar Oct 7 '14 at 14:07
  • There are a couple of Google results for the phrase “primus of the class”, but they seem to be written by non-native English speakers, mostly of Dutch or Flemish origin. – Adhemar Oct 7 '14 at 14:07
  • In Russian, we use the word отличник, otlichnik, that has exactly that meaning - an A-grade student, and this sense is non-pejorative. – CowperKettle Oct 7 '14 at 14:36
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The best match I can think of is the term "valedictorian." This word is only appropriate in the context of a graduating class, but it is the closet single word match I can think of.

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of valedictorian is:

valedictorian - noun - the student who has the highest grades in a graduating class and who gives a speech at graduation ceremonies

  • 1
    Since “valedictorian” comes from Latin “valedīcere” (to bid farewell) I would argue that a better definition is: the individual in a graduating class who delivers the farewell (or valedictory) speech, an honour bestowed upon him/her usually on the grounds of him/her being the individual who graduates with the highest grades. Mainly used in the United States and Canada. – Adhemar Oct 9 '14 at 8:49
2

Not a single word, but how about, "the star student"? A "star" in this context is recognized as excelling in the academic sense. And by using "the" it indicates that it is the one person with that designation.

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    "Top student" is an alternative. As Bob says, "star student" means the best pupil also excels at academics. "Top student" simply means the pupil with the highest grades. If the highest-ranked pupil is merely the best of a mediocre bunch, the "top student" would not be considered a "star student". – kevinbatchcom Oct 7 '14 at 16:01
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It depends a lot on the definition of "the best"...

  • The best at extra-curricular activities
  • the student exhibiting the best behavior
  • the best at sports
  • the best because of highest grades

....if the pupil is good at most activities, he/she is an All-rounder.

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