Alex delivering his salutatorian address at Hermann High School graduation, 2014

When I posted photos of our trip to Hermann, Missouri for Saturday Snapshot, I mentioned that our nephew was salutatorian for his class. Louise of A Strong Belief in Wicker asked about the title in a comment. What a good Wondrous Words Wednesday idea during graduation season!

One thing I learned was that the concepts of valedictorian and salutatorian come from early years of American universities and have been adopted by high schools and colleges in only some parts of the world – Wikipedia claims the US, Canada, and the Philippines. No wonder Louise wasn’t clear on the term since she lives in Australia.

I knew that the valedictorian was the first in the class and the salutatorian was second, but I was surprised to find out that the words meant something entirely different.

Salutatorian is related to salutation and salute. In a letter, the salutation is the “Dear …” line. The salutatorian is given that title because his or her job is to give the first, or salutatory, speech at the commencement ceremony.

There’s a word valediction that is the opposite of salutation. In a letter, it’s the “Sincerely” or “Yours truly.” The valedictorian’s job is to give the final speech of the commencement ceremony.

Did you know these words?

button for Wondrous Words Wednesday memeWondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by Bermudaonion’s Weblog. Kathy says: “Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading.”

Signature of Joy Weese Moll


Wondrous Words Wednesday — Graduation Edition — 5 Comments

  1. Congratulations to your nephew. My granddaughter graduated from the 8th grade last week as one of two valedictorians and was actually the very last person to speak at their graduation ceremony. Her school calls those “top scholars” now, something I had never heard before.

  2. Congratulations on your nephew’s success. The family must be very proud. I did know the many meanings of salutation. I went to school in the “olden days” when we were taught how to write a letter and include all the correct parts. This was after we were taught penmanship (the Palmer method) which I hear is no longer being taught – at least not here in California.

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever inspired a WWW post before! In fact I’m pretty sure that I haven’t. Salutatorian is such a great word, although I don’t think I’ll ever get to use it here in Australia. We don’t even use valedictorian in Australia, but I’ve seen it on so many American tv shows and movies. Thanks for enlightening me though Joy.

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