• matriculate •
Pronunciation: mê-tri-kyê-layt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. To formally admit or be admitted as a student at a college or university. 2. To admit or be admitted to any society, organization, or the like.
Notes: Matriculate implies nothing about graduation or how well someone fares once admitted; it refers only to success in getting into a college or university. This is obviously a Latin borrowing, so it comes with all the lexical accessories of Latin words. The process of matriculating is called matriculation. A person who matriculates is a matriculant, and we have two adjectives meaning "pertaining to matriculation", matricular and matriculatory.
In Play: In the sense of "to be admitted", as opposed to "to admit", today's verb is usually intransitive, requiring a preposition: "In 1997 Les Cheatham matriculated at a well-known university, but in his first year he was caught looking into the soul of the woman sitting next to him on an existentialism exam, and was expelled." We are not restricted to matriculating at a college or university: "Bud Light has long since matriculated into the company of regulars at Duffy's Tavern."
Word History: Today's Good Word is based on the past participle, matriculatus, of Medieval Latin matriculare "to enroll". Matriculare came from matricula "list, register, roll", diminutive of matrix (the Latin spelling of matric-s). This word means "source, womb", because it is based on the Latin word mater "mother". We see it elsewhere in the borrowed vocabulary of English: maternity, matrimony, material, and matron are examples. Mater comes from the same source as English mother, German mutter, French mère, and Spanish madre. Those who are successful after they matriculate, and graduate, can refer to the matricular university as their alma mater "nourishing mother". (We owe a debt of gratitude to Lynn Maher, who managed to matriculate today's Good Word into our published series.)