An alumnus (alumni), according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is "a graduate or former student of a school, college, or university". In addition, an alumna (alumnae) is "a female graduate or former student of a school, college, or university". If a group includes more than one gender, even if there is only one male, the plural form alumni is used.
The Latin noun alumnus means "foster son, pupil" and is derived from the verb alere "to nourish."
An alumnus or alumna is a former student and in particular a graduate of an educational institution (school, college, university). According to the United States Department of Education, the term alumnae is used in conjunction with either women's colleges or a female group of students. The term alumni is used in conjunction with either men's colleges, a male group of students, or a mixed group of students:
In accordance with the rules of grammar governing the inflexion of nouns in the Romance languages, the masculine plural alumni is correctly used for groups composed of both sexes: the alumni of Texas Tech University. Sometimes, to avoid any misguided suggestion of sexism, both terms are used for mixed groups: "the alumni/alumnae of Texas Tech University" or the "alumni and alumnae of Texas Tech University". Coeducational institutions usually use alumni for graduates of both sexes. Some may prefer the phrase "alumni and alumnae" or the form "alumnae/i", which is the choice of many women's colleges that have begun to admit men.
The term is sometimes shortened to "alum," which stands for "an alumna or alumnus." "Alumni" (a plural form) is often incorrectly used as a singular form for both genders; for example, "I am an alumni of Duke University," as opposed to "I am an alumnus/alumna of Duke University." This usage is erroneous in formal or historic usage. The prevalence of this usage is likely due to an ignorance of Latin grammar and the fact that printed documents and university merchandise almost always use the plural form of the word. Alumni reunions are popular events at many institutions. They are usually organized by alumni associations and are often social occasions for fundraising.