A Graduation Lexicon

Congraduations may be cute, but it's not a real word. Here are fifteen real words often seen and heard in the days before and after a graduation ceremony, hidden under mortarboards and robes.

For the full article, check out The Valedictory Lingo of Graduation

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. commencement
    an academic exercise in which diplomas are conferred
    Before college seniors toss their caps in the air at graduation, they're often counseled about the future through the time-honored tradition of commencement speeches.Time (Jun 9, 2017)
    When something commences, it begins. The sense of graduation as a new beginning is why a graduation ceremony is also known as commencement. You don’t hear variations of commence much outside of schools, but if you wanted to sound very official (and maybe a little pompous) you could start a meal or game of Pictionary by saying, “Let us commence!”
  2. ceremony
    a formal event performed on a special occasion
    The graduation ceremony is scheduled to begin 10 a.m.Los Angeles Times (Jun 12, 2017)
    Graduation isn’t just about finishing high school: it’s all about the ceremony, which is a type of ritual involving specific traditions. Graduates have to wear a tent-like robe, put on a strange cap (called a mortarboard), and receive their diploma from the principal in front of the whole school. The graduation is a theatrical event meant to celebrate this major event in your life.
  3. relative
    a person connected by blood or marriage
    More than 50 relatives, friends and co-workers are expected to attend Monday’s ceremony.Washington Times (Jun 11, 2017)
    When you graduate from high school, it’s a great accomplishment, and your family is going to want to celebrate. That means you might have all sorts of relatives show up. Relative is, pardon the expression, a relatively broad term, covering everyone from parents and siblings to fifth cousins, great-aunts, and great-great-grandmothers. If someone is part of your family, they’re a relative — even if they’re not related by blood.
  4. attendance
    the frequency with which a person is present
    There’s mandatory kindergarten in several states, while Pennsylvania and Washington don’t require attendance until age 8.Seattle Times (Jun 5, 2017)
    Some people are a little shy about big ceremonies, so they don’t attend graduation, meaning they don’t show up. Fortunately, attendance is a lot more important before graduation than during. There’s an old cliché that has some truth to it: Half of life is just showing up. That’s what teachers generally think when it comes to attendance: being present for something, in that case, class. If you don’t attend most of your classes, you won't even have the option of attending graduation.
  5. honor
    a tangible symbol signifying approval or distinction
    After graduating with honors from Michigan State University’s James Madison College, Robb wrote a biography about his famous father.Washington Times (Jun 11, 2017)
    In high school, students who make really good grades end up on the honor roll, which can lead to graduating with honors. Very good students might also get the chance to take honors classes: smaller, special classes designed for students who are a little more talented and/or motivated than average. There are also honors classes in college, and getting into any such class is an honor: in other words, a distinction and privilege.
  6. valedictorian
    the student with the best grades
    They whooped and cheered for the 19-year-old, who GWU said in a news release is expected to be his class valedictorian.Washington Post (Mar 22, 2017)
    Graduating with honors is impressive, but there’s an even greater honor: to be the valedictorian. This is the student with the best grades in the entire school. Not much looks better on a college application that being valedictorian of your high-school class. The valedictorian is usually asked to speak during commencement: this is sometimes called a valedictory address.
  7. congratulations
    an expression of approval and commendation
    “I was actually very surprised, people all around the world contacted me, offering me congratulations for getting into these schools.”New York Times (Apr 6, 2017)
    This word is one of the happiest word in English, and it’s one of the most commonly heard at graduation time. Some people even get cute and say congraduations.
  8. principal
    the educator who has executive authority for a school
    The student's parents are due to meet with the high school principal and yearbook adviser this week.BBC (Jun 13, 2017)
    The master of ceremonies at graduation is usually the principal: the person in charge of a school, like a president is in charge of a country or a CEO is in charge of a company. A classic sign of being in trouble is getting called to the principal's office. Most schools also have assistant principals or vice principals. All the other staff, plus the teachers and students, must answer to the principal, but the principal has to answer to the superintendent and the school district.
  9. university
    an institution of higher learning that grants degrees
    There's an old saying, "When one door closes, another door opens." So even though graduation is about the end of high school, it also means many students will be going on to a college or university: in either case, an institution of higher learning. The main difference between a college and university has to do with what the faculty are up to: universities produce more research than colleges, which are more focused on teaching.
  10. graduate
    a person who has received a degree from a school
    The gainful employment rule was designed to ensure that graduates would be able to earn enough money to pay off their student loan debt.Washington Times (Jun 14, 2017)
  11. salutatorian
    a graduating student with the second highest academic rank
    To decrease competition, there are no class rankings and no valedictorians and salutatorians.New York Times (Apr 5, 2017)
  12. address
    give a speech to
    It was supposed to be their big day and their last chance to address the 2017 graduating class of Oxon Hill High School.Washington Post (Jun 3, 2017)
  13. mortarboard
    a square board with a handle underneath
    The seniors at the university where I teach happily toss their mortarboards into the air and pose for selfies, as seniors do annually.Washington Post (May 26, 2017)
    This square cap is probably the most characteristic piece of graduation clothing.
  14. tassel
    adornment consisting of a bunch of cords fastened at one end
    Graduation season, the days of caps and gowns, with tassels being symbolically switched from one side to the other.Washington Times (Jun 1, 2017)
    This embellishment adds a little sartorial flair to the mortarboard, and is really fun to swish around. At the moment when a senior class is proclaimed officially graduated, there is a simultaneous and ceremonial shift of the tassel from right to left. After graduation, the same tassel is often seen dangling from rearview mirrors in teenager's cars as a sentimental reminder of the big day.
  15. diploma
    a document certifying the completion of a course of study
    She received a high school diploma from the jail’s charter school, enrolled in college courses and wrote poetry and an autobiography.The Guardian (Jun 15, 2017)
    This is what it's all about — getting that official piece of paper that says you've made it.

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