Magna Cum Laude Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

Magna cum laude is an important phrase in academics. Here is the meaning of magna cum laude, where the word comes from, and why it matters today!

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In the modern world, achieving high levels of academic distinction is very important. Breaking through high-level cutoffs in higher education or even in high school can help people advance in life. Having a way to quickly inform people of what kind of designations, academic achievements, and GPA requirements they have accomplished is essential and beneficial. 

That is why the phrase magna cum laude is so important. It is a way to quickly tell someone the kind of academic honors you’ve achieved in school. It is one of the highest honors to receive and can help college students easily share that they genuinely care about their education. Even if all they want is to receive the highest praise from their alma mater, achieving magna cum laude is essential. 

This is what magna cum laude means in the context of education and why it’s so important to work towards it. If you’re interested in achieving this great honor, this is how you can make it happen!

What Does Magna Cum Laude Mean Today? 

The magna cum laude distinction is an honor that describes a degree or diploma that has been achieved with great distinction. If you’re trying to get your master’s, doctorate, or even bachelor’s degree, going after the highest grade to earn these graduation honors is a common goal for students. 

The magna cum laude academic honor is based on class rank in many systems. If someone can graduate in the top 10 to 15% of their graduating class, they will often receive the magna cum laude honor. Especially amongst honor students, this is something that they will likely try to go after. When applying to high-level law schools and other academic institutions, being on the higher end of their honors program can pay dividends down the road. 

Another way that this distinction is sometimes measured is through a magna cum laude GPA. If a student’s grade point average is somewhere between 4.0 and 4.2, they will often be seen as magna cum laude by default. 

How Does Magna Cum Laude Compare to Other Academic Honors? 

While magna cum laude is one of the highest distinctions in the Latin honors system, it’s not the highest distinction or the lowest. 

Above magna cum laude is the honor summa cum laude, the highest distinction available in Latin honors. This is typically reserved for the valedictorian and salutatorian of a class and a few other select students who have worked incredibly hard. 

Often, the summa cum laude GPA required is above 4.2 with exceptionally high scores on standardized tests texts. The summa cum laude honor is the highest achievement of the modern Latin honors system because it shows that the student has genuinely worked incredibly hard on their academics. 

If your GPA or class rank is high but isn’t higher than magna cum laude, you will likely achieve the distinction cum laude. This is still a distinctive achievement with lots of weight and importance. The GPA required is usually somewhere between 3.8 and 3.99, and it will show that they have truly put a lot of effort into their academic work. 

Getting a cum laude degree is nothing to look down on — in fact, it’s still something that only a fraction of students achieves. 

What Is the Etymology of Magna Cum Laude? 

Since this magna cum laude is an academic term, it only makes sense that the words themselves come from Latin. When translated literally, this Latin phrase means “with great distinction,” which is something that naturally applies to the definition of this phrase. 

The Latin word Magna translates to “great,” “large,” or “impressive.” The word cum translates to “with,” and laude translates to the word “achievement,” “distinction,” or “impressive.” When translated word by word, the phrase as a whole begins to make much more sense. 

How Can Someone Achieve Magna Cum Laude?

Whether at a local community college or Harvard University, virtually every academic institution highlights its students’ academic distinctions and honors. If you are looking to achieve magna cum laude or even summa cum laude, there are a few things that you can do to get there. 

First, put a lot of effort into your schoolwork. Invest your time studying, interacting with teachers and professors, and rubbing shoulders with other high-level students. Those kinds of distinctions only come through extensive work over a long period. 

Another thing you can do is get more involved in your school. Focus on extracurricular activities, and show your academic community that you are invested and focused heavily on benefitting them as much as they help you. 

Finally, learn how your school measures the Latin honors system. Different schools use different weights to determine GPA, so you must know how to understand your GPA properly. A 4.0 GPA might be summa cum laude at some schools and not even cum laude at others. Learn how your school works, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving magna cum laude. 


We firmly believe that effective communication is one of the most important ways to advance globally, so we want to help people develop their communication skills. 

If you want to know how to use words in the English language to your advantage, feel free to take a look around our blog here at The Word Counter! We’re constantly putting up new articles about using language in the most effective way possible. 

The Word Counter is one of the best tools for enhancing your knowledge of the English language at large. If you ever come across a word or phrase that you don’t know, look around our blog


  1. Magna cum laude Definition & Meaning |
  2. Magna Cum Laude vs. Summa Cum Laude: What’s the Difference? | Investopedia
  3. Cum laude definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary