Undergraduate Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use it

Wondering what the meaning of undergraduate is? Read on as we explore the word undergraduate to uncover its definition, origin, and more.

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After graduating from high school, you may mull over the idea of pursuing a college degree. From helping you to build a strong educational foundation to improving your technical skills, completing your undergraduate education can help you in more ways than one. 

In this article, we’re exploring the word undergraduate to uncover what it means, where it originated, and how to use it in a sentence

What Is the Definition of Undergraduate?

Before we get to the nitty-gritty of the meaning behind undergraduate (pronounced ŭn′dər-grăj-ĭt), we first have to discuss that undergraduate can be used as either a noun or an adjective. 

One of the best ways to really grasp the definition of undergraduate is to determine whether the word is being used as an adjective or a noun. 

Below is a breakdown of an easy-to-read breakdown of the difference provided by the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language as well as various other dictionaries:

  • Undergraduate (noun): Most commonly a college student pursuing a bachelor’s degree (or non-advanced degree).
  • Undergraduate (adjective): Use to reference university or college programs (undergraduate program) where students are pursuing a non-advanced degree. More often than not referred to as an undergraduate degree.

Undergraduate is often shortened to undergrad (when used as either an adjective or a noun).

Essentially, as a noun, an undergraduate is a “student who has not yet received their first degree.” Alternatively, undergraduate is used as an adjective under the same context (e.g., undergraduate studies, undergraduate degree, or undergraduate student).

Examples of Undergraduate in a Sentence

Now that we have touched on the meaning behind undergraduate let’s take a second to look at some example sentences of the word to really get the meaning straight. 

I still have some of my papers from when I was an undergraduate.

Currently, I am focused and dedicated to my graduate program, medical school, and all of my graduate studies. As an undergrad in community college, I barely studied for my next exam.

The characteristic of undergraduates that stands out most to me is that every one of them has held a full-time job to pay for the fees associated with their course of study.

As a graduate student, Margaret shifted her studies to architecture even though as an undergraduate she had studied engineering.

After five years and a lot of hard work, I was able to complete my undergraduate degree.

You will quickly find each school will typically want a copy of your official undergraduate transcripts as well as your high school transcripts to transfer.

I know that I have yet to receive my diploma and not even yet and an undergraduate level; however, I have already started to look at higher education, like a master’s degree or doctoral degree.

As a graduate student, I know I will have to complete a thesis; however, as an undergrad, I know I have time to mull over the topic.

As an undergrad, I was already working towards my associate’s degree all the while taking honors courses to further study my coursework.

While still an undergrad, I always kept a keen eye on my grades.

Sam as an undergrad but he has traveled from his hometown of Europe to attend a four-year institution in the United States, to obtain his Bachelor of Science, bachelor of Arts, or a similar degree. 

I really am hoping to start grad school in the fall. As it stands now, I am still an undergrad.

What Are Synonyms for Undergraduate?

As you may have guessed with multiple definitions, comes numerous synonyms for undergraduate. A synonym is a word that holds a similar or same meaning to undergraduate. 

As we learn synonyms of undergraduate (or synonyms for any word), we will not only broaden our understanding of the English Language; they help us to memorize the definition of undergrad. Synonyms also help us to avoid repeating ourselves in all forms of communication.

Synonyms for undergraduate include:

  • Student
  • Freshman
  • Learner
  • Tutee
  • Person doing work experience
  • Neophyte
  • Schoolboy
  • Greenhorn
  • University student
  • First year student
  • Underclassman
  • Inexperienced person
  • Apprentice
  • New recruit
  • First of may
  • Postgraduate student
  • Candlewaster
  • Coed
  • School Girl
  • Pupil
  • Fresher

What Are Antonyms for Undergraduate?

When a word has the opposite meaning of the original (e.g. up and down), we refer to these as antonyms. 

Antonyms of undergraduate include:

  • Graduate student
  • Grad
  • Professor
  • Nonstudent
  • Counselor
  • Graduate
  • Educationist
  • Veteran
  • Law Students
  • Kindergarten teacher
  • Graduate school
  • Teacher
  • Postgraduate
  • Pedagogue
  • Schoolteacher
  • Graduate degree
  • Old timer
  • Postgraduate
  • Vet
  • Student

What Is the Etymology of Undergraduate?

Undergraduate was first formed around 1620 as a hybrid, formed from under and graduate. From 1920 to 1930, the British (UK) also used the female form undergraduette.

It was not until c.1680 that undergraduate was used as an adjective.

To dive deeper into the history behind undergraduate, we need to look first at the origin of its root word, “degree.” 

Graduate derives from the Medieval Latin graduārī, literally meaning to take your degree. This comes from Middle English and the Latin gradus, which itself meant a step, rank, tier, or relative state. 

From this definition alone, we can see that each time you “graduate,” you clearly take “a step” to your next level of education.

In the hybrid word “undergraduate,” the prefix under – is used to indicate a slower status; by definition, the educational status of an undergrad is below that of a grad student.

Alternate Phrases and Idioms Meaning Undergraduate

Idioms are widely used expressions or even sayings that hold a meaning that differs from the expression’s literal meaning. 

Below we have included a few of the more well-known phrases or idioms of undergraduate – provided by Power Thesaurus:

  • Postdoctoral fellow
  • Young blood
  • New kid on the black
  • Johnny come lately
  • Inexperienced person
  • Fresh from the oven
  • New blood


When it’s all said and done, undergraduate can be used as a noun or as an adjective to describe someone completing a Bachelor’s degree at a university.


  1. UNDERGRADUATE | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary
  2. Undergraduate | The Power Thesaurus
  3. Undergraduate | The American Heritage Dictionary