Distinguishing between alumnus and alumni
Both “alumnus” and “alumni” are Latin words that refer to students. “Alumnus” means a male graduate and “alumni” is the plural of alumnus and refers to a group of graduates. A female graduate is referred to as “alumna” and the plural form of this word is “alumnae”.
There are also other differences in the usage of these two words. Even though alumni is the plural of the alumnus, which is male, it is used quite often to refer to a group of graduates that are both male and female.
Consider the way in which the word “alumni” is used in the following sentence:
The 1999 alumni of Memorial University are invited to attend a luncheon in honor of the retirement of Dr. Don David.
In this sentence it refers to both male and female graduates.
However, to avoid any possibility of confusion, both the male and female terms are used in the universities and colleges of some countries of the world. This is to make sure that there won’t be any change of being labeled sexist in any remarks that are made about graduates. In most cases, though, the word “graduates” is used to refer to everyone and it is a more generic term to use.