1. bachelor’s degree.
  2. a religious service held at an educational institution, usually on the Sunday before commencement day.
  3. baccalaureate sermon.


  1. the university degree of Bachelor or Arts, Bachelor of Science, etc
  2. an internationally recognized programme of study, comprising different subjects, offered as an alternative to a course of A levels in Britain
  3. US a farewell sermon delivered at the commencement ceremonies in many colleges and universities

1620s, “university degree of a bachelor,” from Medieval Latin baccalaureatus, from baccalaureus “student with the first degree,” altered by a play on words with bacca lauri “laurel berry” (laurels being awarded for academic success).

The Medieval Latin word perhaps ultimately is derived from Latin baculum “staff” (see bacillus), which the young student might carry, but it is more likely just a re-Latinization of bachelor (q.v.) in its academic sense. In modern U.S. usage, the word usually is short for baccalaureate-sermon (1864), a religious farewell address to the graduating class.

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