Duxes and testamurs

Two words I came across recently that left me puzzled were dux and testamur. After some investigation, I discovered that dux is the title given to the top academic student in a graduating class of a school, and that it’s used in Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and Iceland. I understand that the US equivalent is valedictorian. I don’t know if there’s an equivalent in England or Wales.

Dux comes from the Latin word for leader, via the verb ducere, to lead, and is also the root of the English word duke, the French duc, the Italian duce, and the Venetian doge.

A testamur or testimonium is a certificate issued by a university to signify that a student has satisfied the requirements of a particular course and has graduated, according to this site. It’s used mainly in Australia. Elsewhere I believe such documents are usually called diplomas.

Testamur comes from the Latin Ita testamur, meaning “We testify/certify” – the words used to begin such certificiates, according to Wikipedia.

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This entry was posted in English, Language, Words and phrases.

4 Responses to Duxes and testamurs

  1. BG says:

    That Wikipedia article says that testamur is also used in the UK.

  2. Stuart Mudie says:

    Never one to miss a chance to show off a little, I can confirm that when I finished secondary school in 1990, “dux” was still very much in use in Scotland – I have a yellowing certificate lying around somewhere in my parents’ house to prove it.

  3. Jangari says:

    Important to note though, that while a diploma can refer to the entire course, the qualification or the specific document, a testamur may only refer to the document.

    I have a diploma in… (hmm) palindromic ethnotoponymy.

    *I have a testamur in palindromic ethnotoponymy.

    I just received a testamur saying that I hold a diploma in palindromic ethnotoponymy.

    Also, in Australia at least, Dux is really only used in high school. No one cares about competitiveness when it comes to tertiary education.

  4. Dave says:

    I’m sure the title of the article is tongue-in-cheek, but I couldn’t finish reading this article without using my anal Latin knowledge to correct ‘duxes’ to the correct nominative plural, ‘duces’.

    I’m English and have never heard this term used, though of course that doesn’t in any way mean that we don’t use it! :)