Difference between Alumni or Alumnus

The terms “alumni” and “alumnus” are often used in the context of individuals who have graduated or attended a particular educational institution, but they hold distinct meanings and uses. While both stem from Latin origins and are associated with former students, understanding their proper application is essential for accurate communication. This article explores the definitions, origins, pronunciation, and proper usage of “alumni” and “alumnus,” highlighting their differences and providing clarity on when and how to use each term effectively.

DefinitionA group of male or mixed-gender former studentsA male former student
GenderGender-neutral or maleMale
UsageUsed to refer to a group of graduates or attendeesUsed to refer to an individual male graduate or attendee

Difference Between “Alumni” and “Alumnus”

Definition of Alumni

"Alumni" is the plural form used to refer to a group of former students or graduates, regardless of their gender. It is often used in a general sense to address or describe individuals who have left an educational institution after completing their studies. This term is inclusive and can be applied when referring to a mixed-gender group or when the gender composition is unknown or irrelevant.

Definition of Alumnus

"Alumnus" is a singular noun that refers specifically to one male graduate or former student of an educational institution. It is used when the subject of discussion is a male individual who has completed his studies and left the institution. This term is precise in its application, focusing on the individual's gender and educational affiliation.

Origin of Alumni

The term “alumni” originates from Latin, where “alumnus” is the singular form meaning “pupil” or “foster son.” The use of “alumni” as the plural form has been adopted in English to refer to graduates or former students, embracing a broader and more inclusive application over time.

Origin of Alumnus

Alumnus” also stems from Latin, with a direct translation to “pupil” or “foster son.” Historically, Latin nouns have gender-specific forms, and “alumnus” has been used to specifically denote male students. Its adoption into English has preserved this gender specificity, maintaining the singular and male connotations of the original Latin term.


  • Alumni: Pronounced as /əˈlʌmnaɪ/, with the emphasis on the second syllable.
  • Alumnus: Pronounced as /əˈlʌmnəs/, with the emphasis again on the second syllable.

Comparing Alumni and Alumnus

The key difference between “alumni” and “alumnus” lies in their number and gender specificity. “Alumni” is a plural term that can refer to both male and mixed-gender groups of former students, making it a versatile and commonly used term in educational contexts. “Alumnus,” on the other hand, is singular and specifically male, ideal for referring to individual male graduates. Understanding this distinction is crucial for proper usage, especially in formal writing and speech.

differences in usage of alumni and alumnus in US English and UK English

Usage in Sentences with Explanations

Use of Alumni in Sentences

  1. The university welcomed its alumni back for the annual homecoming weekend.
    • Refers to a group of former students of both genders attending an event.
  2. Our alumni network spans the globe, representing diverse professions.
    • Indicates a mixed-gender group of former students connected through an institution.
  3. Alumni of the 1990s are planning a reunion next year.
    • Speaks about a specific cohort of graduates without specifying gender.
  4. The alumni association announced a scholarship fund for current students.
    • Refers to an organization composed of former students working towards a common goal.
  5. Alumni contributions have played a significant role in the university’s expansion.
    • Highlights the collective effort of former students in supporting their alma mater.

Use of Alumnus in Sentences

  1. John Doe, an alumnus of our college, recently published his first novel.
    • Specifies a single male graduate who has achieved a notable milestone.
  2. Each year, the school honors an alumnus for outstanding community service.
    • Refers to an individual male recipient of an award.
  3. He is a proud alumnus of the university’s engineering program.
    • Describes a male graduate expressing affiliation and pride in his specific academic background.
  4. As an alumnus, he frequently returns to campus to mentor current students.
    • Focuses on one male former student’s ongoing engagement with his alma mater.
  5. The alumnus shared his experiences during the career day event.
    • Mentions a singular male speaker at an event designed to guide current students.


The distinction between “alumni” and “alumnus” is clear: “alumni” refers to a group of graduates or former students, while “alumnus” specifies an individual male graduate. Understanding and using these terms correctly enhances clarity and precision in communication, especially in academic and professional settings. Recognizing the gender and number implications of these terms allows for respectful and accurate references to individuals and groups associated with educational institutions.

Commonly Asked Questions

  1. What are the female and plural female terms equivalent to “alumnus”?
    • The singular female term is “alumna,” and the plural female term is “alumnae.”
  2. Can “alumni” be used to refer only to female graduates?
    • Technically, “alumni” can refer to a mixed-gender group or when gender is unspecified. For exclusively female groups, “alumnae” is the correct term.
  3. Is it acceptable to use “alumni” when referring to a single person if the gender is not known?
    • No, “alumni” is always plural. If referring to a single person whose gender is unknown or if you prefer not to specify, “alum” is a gender-neutral and number-agnostic alternative.

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