How do you say the word "graduation" in Latin, referring to a college graduation? I searched online, but couldn't find anyone who had asked this.

5 Answers 5


David Morgan, in his Lexicon, offers promotio [academica]. Lewis & Short says that this is a post-classical word and offers "advancement, preferment, promotion" as translations.

A "graduation ceremony" would be promotionis sollemnia.

  • 2
    This is a good choice, especially if one wants to refer to the graduation ceremony. At my university, the "conferment of degrees ceremony" (as it's called in English) is called "promootio" in Finnish and promotio in Latin. However, this celebration is not obligatory; one will graduate whether or not one attends a "promotion" in any way (even in absentia).
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jun 30, 2017 at 20:08

Two ideas from the University of Oxford, which still conducts some of its ceremonies (including degree days) in Latin:

  • Encaenia is a Greek word for a festival of renewal, which is the name of Oxford's ceremony celebrating benefactors and conferring honorary degrees. The university website describes the term as equivalent to the American term 'commencement' for the chief ceremony of the academic year.
  • A regular degree ceremony uses the phrase Gradus conferre for the granting of degrees in the opening formula (although when students are specifically admitted to degrees, the phrasing is admittere ad gradum). This suggests some sort of expression like ceremonia gradum conferentis could be apposite.
  • 2
    I'd recommend conferendi over conferentis.
    – Figulus
    Mar 6 at 17:09

Two suggestions:

  1. If Etymonline is to be trusted, the English word "graduation" comes from a medieval Latin adjective graduatus ("graduated"). This Latin word is a regular derivation but seems to be absent in classical literature. If barbatus is "bearded" and alatus is "winged", graduatus is "degreed". The word gradus can mean "status", "degree", or "position". Going by analogy with graduatus, it is natural to translate "graduation" as graduatio, -nis. The benefit is that it looks obviously related to the English word and is readily understood (in context) by most Latinists even if they have never seen the word before in Latin.
  2. The Finnish–Latin–Finnish dictionary by Reijo Pitkäranta translates "to graduate" as specimina absolvere and lists no other options. More directly, this Latin expression means "to finish one's exams". Based on this, you could call "graduation" as specimina absoluta (lit. "completion of exams"). Frankly, I dislike this option.

In Medieval studia generalia, the term that seems to have been used is gradum concedere or conferre. Alternately, instead of gradum, the name of the degree: baccalaureus for those who finished the trivium, magister for those who finished the quadrivium, and doctor for those who finished the higher facultates of Law, Medicine or Theology.

  • Hmm... Aren't baccalaureus and magister people who hold the degrees, not the degrees themselves?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jul 1, 2017 at 15:27
  • I think that there's some metonymy in play for that kind of usage, but yes, formally they're the titles for the holders of the degrees.
    – Wtrmute
    Jul 3, 2017 at 12:20

In DMLBS (Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources), a dictionary of Medieval Latin, we can find the deponent verb graduārī for "to graduate", and the substantive usage of its perfect participle graduātus for "a graduate", e.g.:

unum de clericis nostris, virum [...] in utroque jure ~atum (see the DMLBS entry for details)

ad [...] prepositum et ceteros de collegio ~atos debet pertinere

The noun graduātiō for "graduation" is also attested:

dignior quo ad ~onem scolasticam debet preferri

Personally, I am not a fan of pure Classical Latin, so I would prefer these simple words for brevity in most circumstances.

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