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Can I call that person a schoolmate? Or is that a wrong word because a school isn't a university? In that case, is it common to call that person a university mate?

10 Answers 10

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In the US at least, this person would be a fellow student, a friend from college or a friend (or acquaintance) from school.

Personally I've never heard "university mate." Also I've never seen or heard "an university" anything. It would be "a university" something. Because "university" starts with a Y sound, a consonant in this case.

A "classmate" is only for a student who's sitting in the same class with you.

I haven't heard "schoolmate" but I don't know why.

  • "School chum", possibly? Maybe I've watched too much Harry Potter. – Andrew Feb 5 '18 at 2:54
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    In the UK, fellow student is also the best term (or maybe fellow $NameOfUniversity student for clarity). Mate implies friendship, and the question doesn't say anything about being friends with the other person. – Peter Taylor Feb 5 '18 at 9:43
  • I could see a Brit using "university mate" but never "universitymate" if that makes sense. – corsiKa Feb 5 '18 at 20:26
  • @PeterTaylor - I see what you mean. I'm going to edit my answer. – aparente001 Feb 6 '18 at 2:36
  • With context, fellow student works, but it's probably worth noting that the phrase can also be used for a student from a different institution when differentiating from non-students, as in "they competed with fellow students from universities across Europe" or host "a fellow student from our sister school". – 1006a Feb 6 '18 at 9:26
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A person who attends the same college or university as you, from a more technical perspective, should probably be called your collegemate (college is more or less a general term for an institution of higher education, at least, in North America) rather than your schoolmate, but I wouldn't say that this term is common enough that you will ever hear someone actually say it in real life. I've definitely never heard anyone use it. Though, technically speaking, it does exist in English. More realistically, you would probably just say something like people who go to the same university as you or people who study at the same university as you or simply fellow students from my university.

The word classmate, on the other hand, would be a term that's used to refer to someone from your class regardless of the kind of educational institution that you're attending. It can be a high school, college or university. Your classmates are simply people who are in the same class as you.

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    @bp. Alumni, as far as I know, are people who are former students or graduates, as they're more commonly called, of a particular university. So, you can say something like this: he is a Stanford alumnus. What that means is that he was a student at Stanford when he was studying there, but he's not a student there anymore because he graduated from Stanford 10 years ago. – Michael Rybkin Feb 5 '18 at 6:27
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    @bp.: Also, a "fellow alumn[us/a]" doesn't have to be from the same year as you ("alumni" is plural, and "alumnae" is plural and feminine, but a lot of native speakers just say "alumni" or even "alum," which is not a word). – Kevin Feb 5 '18 at 6:39
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    @Kevin until, of course, it is. – AakashM Feb 5 '18 at 15:58
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    Note that college is not the generic term for an institute of higher education across all of North America. In Canada, the word "college" specifically means an institute that grants only two- or three-year professional degrees (it also applies to some private high schools). If a Canadian says, "When I went to college..." it is assumed that they do not have a bachelor's degree, because those are only earned at a university. – Canadian Yankee Feb 5 '18 at 16:21
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    A batchmate, if you want to highlight that the person is in the same year as well. – Soha Farhin Pine Feb 5 '18 at 17:31
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A few comments from the UK. "An university" used to be current 200 years ago. See for example Google ngrams. Also I recall seeing more than once (but cannot now trace a reference) the definite article being used at about that time, as if there were only one university. (There had been two in England for centuries). "Uni" is now very commonly used in spoken BrE but is newish. The older informal term abbreviated the word from the other end: Varsity. So, for an older generation: the answer would have been "a Varsity friend".

In formal BrE, "at college" is potentially confusing because there are lots of colleges in the UK that are not universities - and there used to be many more that have now become universities, and some of them were previously known as "university colleges".

The AmE use of school to mean university is also confusing for us.

And all the more confusing for everyone is that both 'college' and 'school' are used in BrE to refer to aspects of universities. When I was an undergraduate I was a member of a college which was not in itself the university, and I am now associated with the School of Mathematics and Statistics in a British university, but that school is likewise not a university in itself.

What this all adds up to is that there seems not to be a single word answer in BrE. I personally would use "fellow student".

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    American universities are also often composed of a number of somewhat independent "schools", but this is different from the general use of "school" to refer to the entire institution. But yes, over here "college" and "university" are frequently used interchangeably. "A friend from school", "A friend from college", and "A friend from university," all mean the same thing. – Andrew Feb 5 '18 at 5:27
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    TIL what "Varsity" means. I'd seen the word in use (eg our uni had a Varsity Fair) but had no idea it was just an abbreviation of "university". – Muzer Feb 5 '18 at 16:30
  • It is, but you may well ask why it is not "Versity". The reason is that in upper class British English, and not always just in that class, some words are pronounced in a way that differs from how a modern speaker would pronounce them. For example, the important county, Royal indeed, of Berkshire is pronounced Barkshire. An ancient Oxford college, Hertford College, is pronounced Harford. So what is written as "er" is pronounced in some cases as we would now pronounce "ar". "Varsity" just copies that way of speaking but using the way we would now write that pronunciation. – JeremyC Feb 5 '18 at 22:17
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    @JeremyC And let us not forget the clerk wearing the derby hat! – mweiss Feb 6 '18 at 2:38
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Since nearly every university in the U.S. has a school nickname, it's very common and well understood to call other students by the nickname. This reference would cover students attending as well as alumni.

For example, if you and your friend go to the University of Georgia, you could say, "Michelle is a Bulldog too."

We went to the pre-party and the bar was full of Bulldogs.

  • +1 This is what I hear most commonly: she's a fellow Trojan/Eaglehawk/Myschoolian etc. – 1006a Feb 6 '18 at 4:17
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I've never heard the term schoolmate. I've heard classmate, but that is specifically for someone in the same course as you. Where I grew up (near San Diego), we would generally refer to other students at our same school as peers. Since peer is a very general term, you could also qualify it, like school peers or class peers.

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In Germany we have a special word for that "Kommilitone", opposed to "Mitschüler" what means schoolmate, or "Klassenkammerad" what would be "classmate"

so let's see what auto-translate-tools get for that...

so I'd say "fellow student" seems the most correct choice, even though it's not "a single word"

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    Thanks for the contribution but please note that this site is for the English language, I think this answer is better posted as a comment. I hope you kindly take a tour of the site first. :) – shin Feb 5 '18 at 11:40
  • indeed you are correct, but then you could throw that word into any translation engine to get results. Obmitted that because I thought it obvious. – Dr. Azrael Tod Feb 5 '18 at 12:07
  • @Dr.AzraelTod translation engines, even when not outright wrong, very often produce results which either don't carry quite the same connotations, or are clear but not idiomatic. As such, they might be fine if you just need a way to communicate something (which OP already had), but they're not a good source when somebody is asking for the most appropriate term. – Chris H Feb 6 '18 at 11:53
  • I didn't mean you should rely on a translation engine completely - I just like to see what options the dictionary knows and then decide based on my intuition. That's obviously wrong in many cases - but it's a starting point. – Dr. Azrael Tod Feb 7 '18 at 12:27
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Yes, schoolmate is perfectly acceptable. At least in AmE, where school is used interchangeably with college or university in informal speech. In BE, it seems like it would not normally be used this way as school is normally not used beyond secondary education.

schoolmate
noun
1. a companion or associate at school.

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    Not in the UK. School is strictly for the under 18 year olds. – JeremyC Feb 5 '18 at 14:05
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    I guess it's acceptable wherever tertiary education institutions are routinely called "schools". Not in Australia either FYI. – curiousdannii Feb 5 '18 at 14:34
  • @JeremyC - Not always. See the Royal School of Mines or the Slade School of Fine Art – Alohci Feb 5 '18 at 15:24
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    But would you call someone you studied at the Slade with your "schoolmate" without further explanation? – JeremyC Feb 5 '18 at 15:33
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A classmate.

As noted in some other answers (which specifically disagree with using this term in this way), using the term "classmate" can be a bit controversial. If you are in at least one class as the person, then the term is applicable. In saying this, I am using the word "class" as meaning a group of people who meet at the same time, under one instructor.

However, even if I have someone who started at the same time as me, and graduated at the same time as me, we could still be classmates. For instance, a person born around 1977 may have graduated high school around 1996, and was part of the "class of '96". (Likewise, then, those who got a bachelor's degree four years later would be the "class of 2000".) If I wanted to refer to such a person, I would feel right in saying that we were in the same "class", since the word "class" has multiple meanings.

Note that if the person is one grade ahead or behind you, you may still attend college at the same time, while not being in the same class. So this term would only apply to some of your co-students.

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"fellow student" is what I hear most often and probably the most common term. One could possibly think up "co-student" but it's not a real word.

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I would call that person a fellow alumni of the institution in question. In formal usage; Alumni is fairly specific to universities though can be used casually to describe any other institution that one might learn in (including say, the school of hard knocks).

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    That's not the same thing. 'Alumni' is someone who was a former student of an institution. The OP asked about a fellow student (currently pursuing his or her studies), not a former student. – Varun Nair Feb 5 '18 at 5:57
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    alumni is the plural form of alumnus, by the way. alumnus is singular. – Michael Rybkin Feb 5 '18 at 6:30
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    @CookieMonster - it's also the plural of alumna; even in the past, some students were female! – Toby Speight Feb 5 '18 at 10:19
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    @TobySpeight: The plural of alumna is alumnae. It's not seen that often, but it would be appropriate for example when talking about the graduates of a women's college. The masculine plural alumni is used to refer to mixed groups because that's how the gender of plural nouns works in Latin. – sumelic Feb 5 '18 at 21:27
  • @sumelic: Yes, I'd forgotten alumnae - which I shouldn't have done, having been educated at an establishment that was founded for women's education and therefore had cause to use that term! (It only became mixed about ten years or so before I started.) – Toby Speight Feb 6 '18 at 10:23

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