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Italian word of the day: Laurearsi

Elaine Allaby
Elaine Allaby - [email protected]
Italian word of the day: Laurearsi
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

You'll graduate into comfortably using this Italian verb in no time.


Every so often when walking down the street in Italy, you'll pass by groups of smartly-dressed young Italians wearing wreaths on their heads, usually carrying a bottle of champagne and more often than not singing raucous songs.

They're not going to a fancy dress party or a wedding, but celebrating graduating from university with their degree - or in Italian, their laurea.

The tradition of crowning victors with laurel wreaths dates all the way back to Greco-Roman times, when winners of athletic challenges in the Pythian or Delphic games would have them placed on their heads.

In ancient Rome, victorious generals and emperors would wear a triumphal golden crown in the shape of laurel leaves, which were associated with the god Apollo and thus with wisdom, music, poetry, painting, and immortal glory (the laurel plant is evergreen).

Later on, in the Middle Ages, the laurel wreath (laurus or laurĕa, in Latin) became associated with great poets, which is in why most of the paintings and sculptures of the poet Dante Alighieri show him wearing a laurel crown.

That association of the laurel wreath with triumph and learning lives on Italy today: which is why modern-day Italian students wear a crown of laurel leaves (corona di alloro) on their graduation day, and the Italian word for 'graduate' is the reflexive verb laurearsi: literally, to crown oneself with laurels.

Si è laureata in medicina l'anno scorso e inizierà il suo nuovo lavoro a marzo.
She graduated from medical school last year and starts her new job in March.

Posso venire la prossima settimana, domani mi laureo!
I can come next week, tomorrow I'm graduating!

Ha conseguito la laurea in ingegneria.
He got his degree in engineering.

In Italy, you graduate on the same day as you defend your final thesis and receive your overall grade, which means graduation celebrations are particularly giddy affairs, with confetti, toasts, and singing.


Like the slave whose job it was to whisper "momento mori" in a Roman emperor's ear as they led a triumphal parade to remind them they would one day die, in some parts of Italy the friends and family of new graduates sing an insulting, X-rated chant (that begins Dottore, dottore, dottore...) as a reminder not to take themselves too seriously - even if they are dressed up like Dante.

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