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Friday Fun Fact: Ancient Rome Leaves Lasting Legacy in Higher Ed

Who says Latin is a dead language?

The lingua franca of the Roman Empire continues to live and breathe in the foundations of higher education throughout the world.

For instance, the word “college” comes directly from the Latin word “collegium,” meaning community. It joined the parlance of academia during the 13th century in England at Oxford and Cambridge.

Before there were Greek student societies  — Phi Beta Kappa was the first, in 1776 — there were Latin-letter fraternities. One example is at the Digarc client College of William and Mary in Virginia, where the colloquially named Flat Hat Club has thrived since 1750. (Thomas Jefferson was a famous member.) The group is officially called the F.H.C. Society, meaning “Fraternitas, Humanitas, et Cognitio” or “brotherhood, humanity, and knowledge.”

More campus Latin:

  • “Bachelor,” as in bachelor’s degree, is believed to have its origin in the Latin term “baccalarius,” meaning adult serf without a landholding. “Bachelor” was later used to describe a young unmarried man, and in the late 14th century, it morphed into a term denoting one who has taken the lowest degree in a university, according the the Online Etymology Dictionary.
  • “University” is also straight from the Latin — the abbreviation for universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which means community of masters and scholars.
  • “Alumnus” is the Latin word for pupil.

Photo: shutterstock.com

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