An Oxford Glossary of Terminology

Please send new terms to peet.morris -at-

Term Meaning
Aegrotat Sick note used for missing exams but still passing.  Much sought after, but you usually have to have something horrible to get one. Aegrotat is the only surviving remnant of the Latin verb aegrotare
Aesthete Non-sportsman. [cf., hearty.]
Ashmolean [The] The main museum in Oxford, and the oldest in Britain. Founded by Elias Ashmole in 1683.
B.A. Bachelor of Arts.  Letters you can put after your name when you get a degree at Oxford [in most subjects, including science!].  See also M.A.
Bags See 'Oxford bags'.
Balls Held in the summer at a number of colleges. D.J. or ball gown are the standard attire, depending on your sex.  These used to go on all night, with breakfast included.  Sadly many now finish in the small hours because of complaints about the noise.  Tickets are normally sold for two, so you have to find a partner; actually you will have more fun if you go with a crowd of people you know.  It can be expensive, but it is worth going at least once in your life if you get the chance.  See also 'Commem. Ball'.
Batells/Battels [spelling dependent upon one's college] College bill. If you are still not sure what this is, you will probably be receiving one shortly!
Beating the bounds A strange ritual of beating the ground with willow sticks to impress important boundaries upon the peasants.  Only done for ''fun'' nowadays.
Black Tie Formal evening attire. See 'Dinner Jacket' for more information. [cf., White_Tie.]
Blackwell's The biggest and best bookshop in Oxford, located in the Broad.  People even come from Cambridge to visit.
Boater Hard flat-topped rimmed straw hat worn in the summer, especially by the river for Eights Week, etc.
Boat Race [The] Annual competition between two eights rowed by students from Oxford and Cambridge held on the River Thames in London from Putney to Mortlake.  Oxford had a winning streak over many years recently by importing large so-called students from America.  Cambridge complained but to no avail, but are now back on form anyway, Note that ''boat'' is Cockney rhyming slang for ''face'' - boat = boat race = face. [Just thought you might be interested.]
Bod [The] Short for 'Bodleian Library', the main library at Oxford University.  The easiest way to get a library card is to spend three years lolling around at Oxford.  The difficult way is to apply at the admissions office.  If you are a member of the university you may obtain a special pass to take non-members in to certain pretty bits of it: something to do with employing oiks to carry one's books.
Blue Award for sporting prowess.  Half-blues are given for lesser sports like tiddly-winks[?]
Bump The river at Oxford [and Cambridge] is not wide enough for several eights to row abreast so races are conducted by starting at equidistant points along the river and trying to 'bump' the eight in front.  This involves simply catching up rather than [necessarily] literally bumping it. See also 'over-bump'.  In Cambridge you do actually have to bump them apparently.  [See 'the appropriate spot to stand', by A. Cambumpswatcher, of Grassy Corner, Fen Ditton, Cambs.]
Bump supper Celebratory dinner if an eight manages a bump [up] on every day of Eights Week or Torpids.  Each member of the crew also gets an oar to keep as a memento and an [old] eight may be burnt as part of the festivities [a boat that is!].  A highly recommended shindig which often results in a shindy.  [That should send you to your dictionary! (Google is your friend)]
Broad [The] See the High.
Bulldog Choose from:

      University 'policeman' in a bowler hat.

      Pub in St. Aldates [see both sides of the pub sign for more information].

Cambridge The other place.  Oxford view: a cold damp place in the Fens founded by a group of people thrown out of Oxford.  [They tell a rather different story in Cambridge!] Hence Cambrian meaning ''of or relating to the first period in the Palaeozic era, marked by the occurrence of many forms of invertebrate life.''  Perhaps Cambridge is older than Oxford after all! Also known as 'the Poly on the Fens'.
Cambridge man The complement of an Oxford man.
Cantab Nothing to do with Canterbury, but short for 'of Cambridge [University]' in Latin [Cantabrigiensis].
Carfax The centre of the city of Oxford, where the High, St. Aldates, Queen Street and Cornmarket Street meet.  There is a good view from the tower here.
Chancellor [The] The head of the University who isn't here.  Currently Rt Hon the Lord Patten of Barnes. Normally somebody you have heard of. [cf., Vice-Chancellor.]
Cherwell [The] [Pronounced ''charwell''.]  The other river in Oxford [cf., the Thames, of which it is a tributary], recommended for punting.  Also a student newspaper for those with less literary pretensions than Isis.
ChCh Yet another pompous name for Christ Church.
Christ Church The biggest college at Oxford.  So big that the college 'chapel' is also Oxford Cathedral! Also known as the House.  You might like to avoid Mercury and the Dean.
Class You can get a first, second or third class honours degree or a pass degree.  You used to be able to get a 'fourth' as well.  Supposedly it was only worth going for a first or a fourth at Oxford, depending on how you wanted to spend your time.  Anything between was wasted effort. A Third is also sometimes known as 'a gentleman's degree'.
COD Concise Oxford Dictionary from the OUP.
Collections Not money-raising for charity, but beginning of term exams for students to see if they have done any work in the vac.
College One of thirty or so institutions which make up the University.  Beware of the imitations on the outskirts of the city which [abuse the names of Oxford and College].
Come up To arrive as a student at Oxford.  See also 'go down' and 'sent down'.
Commem. Ball An extra-special Ball commemorating something, but most attendees would be hard pushed to tell you what, especially just after the event.
Commoner Student who does not have a scholarship or exhibition. Commoner students wear short gowns, often referred to 'arse freezers'.
Congregation The legislative body consisting of most of the academics in the University which refused to give Maggie Thatcher her honorary Oxford degree.  It also decides on various other University matters.  You must wear a gown to attend so not many people do - except where an ex-Prime Minister is concerned.
Convocation Used to be All Oxford M.A.s.  You can elect the Chancellor and Professor of Poetry, but you must turn up in person.  Nowadays, anyone who has completed a degree at Oxford also has a vote.
Daily Information Daily [in term time] news sheet which appears on various college and University notice boards.  Worth reading if you find one.  It becomes 'Weekly Information' out of term time.
Dame's Delight Female equivalent of Parson's Pleasure, sadly defunct for many years.
Dean [The] Head of Christ Church.  Other colleges have a variety of different names for the head of the college to confuse visitors [note, not the Visitor].
Debag To remove someone's trousers ['bags'].  An ancient student sport.
Dinner Jacket Special dark suit worn with a black bow tie and fancy shirt for formal dinners and most college balls.  Try Shepherd and Woodward [109 High Street] or Walter's [10 The Turl] if you need to buy or hire one.  This attire is also known as 'Black Tie', especially on invitations.
D.J. Short for 'Dinner Jacket'.
Don College tutor.  Derived from the Latin dominus meaning variously master, lord, owner, host and despot!
D.Phil. Doctor of Philosophy.  Most Universities call this a Ph.D., but Oxford has to be different.
Eight A rowing boat with eight oarsmen [or women] and a Cox to steer and shout at the oarsmen.
Eights Week Rowing between the colleges in the summer.  Like a junior Henley Royal Regatta.  The river is the place to be on the Saturday.  Held in 5th week of Trinity term.  Drink Pimms from one of the college boathouses and dress up in a boater and blazer.  Torpids is the other rowing event earlier in the year.
Encaenia Funny ceremony in which important academics dress up in all their finery and parade from some College [where they have congregated for pre-show drinks] down the Broad before dolling out honorary degrees in the Sheldonian.  The Chancellor gets the prettiest gown and also has a page boy to hold it up for him.  Often a famous face or two can be spotted [often attached to a Nobel Laureate].  Note that the show doesn't actually happen till about half an hour after the announced start time to give them time to down their sherry, adjust their gear, etc. Worth seeing if you are in Oxford at the time, although tickets to actually get into the Sheldonian are hard to come by [and then you would miss the parade anyway].  The ceremony is held in the summer so the gowns are less likely to get wet!  The Vice-Chancellor holds a garden party in one of the colleges during the afternoon where you can spot gowns in various states of decomposition, and also judge [or even enter] the silliest hat competition.  [Turquoise and orange with lots of braid and twiddly bits are favourites!]  Pronounciation here.
Exam Schools Or Examination Schools.  Building where Prelims, Mods and Finals are held.  Also used for lectures and other purposes throughout the rest of the year.
Exhibition Lesser scholarship.
Fellow Member of the governing body of a College.  Basically, all [or most of] the college tutors.  A fellow can be female in this context, rather like a Californian 'guy'!
Filibuster A large hard biscuit, recommended by dentists.
Finals Final examinations at the end of 3 or 4 years as an undergraduate student.  Your degree depends [almost] entirely on your exam result.
First See class.
Fourth See class.  No longer available.
Frank Cooper The original maker of 'Oxford Marmalade'.  There was a tourist shop for a while selling souvenirs [and marmalade] in the High Street on the site of the original shop but this is now also defunct.  They offered to send marmalade anywhere in the world and there was a small exhibition including tins of marmalade taken by Scott to the Antarctic!  Was worth dropping in if you were passing but I am afraid you are too late!
Fresher First-year student.
Freshers' Fair Stalls for all the University Societies and Clubs held in the Exam Schools at the beginning of each academic year. Good for freebies.
Gated Confined to college as a punishment.  Sadly not used much nowadays.
Gaudy [merry-making] A jolly good [normally annual] college dinner for old members.
Go down Leave as a student at Oxford [either temporarily or permanently].  See also 'come up' and 'sent down'.  Not to be confused with 'Going down on'!
Gown Robe worn by academics to avoid having soup spilt on them at meal-times in Hall.  Thus, the larger the gown, the more prestigious it is; the more colourful it is, the more meals the owner has been served.  Also used to refer to the University as in 'Town and Gown'.
Greats Study of classics or philosophy at Oxford.
Half-blue See 'blue'.
Hall Communal eating place in college.  For added confusion, some colleges are called Halls.
Head of the River Winning crew or college in Eights Week or Torpids.  A bump supper may be in order.  Also the name of the next pub up the river from the finishing line, at Folly Bridge.
Hearty Sportsman, especially a keen rower. [cf., aesthete.]
Hebdomadal Council Administrative council of the University.
JCR Junior Common Room - for undergraduate students. [cf., MCR and SCR.]
High [The] Short for the 'High Street'.  Also 'the Broad', 'the Turl', etc.
High Table Dinner for Dons and guests only.  Highly recommended experience if your liver can take it.  Don't drive home afterwards!
Hilary Spring term. [cf., Michaelmas and Trinity.]
Isis Confusing name for the River Thames at Oxford [especially when rowing on it].  Also the name of an Oxford student magazine for those with literary pretensions. [cf., Cherwell.]
K.A. [The] Short for the King's Arms, probably the pub most frequented by students in Oxford at the south end of Parks Road.
Keble Road Triangle [The] The triangular area north of Keble Road next to the Parks acting as an overflow for the Science Area.
LMH Short for 'Lady Margaret Hall', one of the [ex-women's] colleges.
Long Vac Nothing to do with laborious house cleaning, but instead, summer holidays.  See 'vac'.
House [The] Pompous name for Christ Church.
M.A. Master of Arts.  You simply have to survive 21 terms [7 years] after you matriculate to get this degree, with a few provisos, like getting your B.A., not being in prison, etc. See 'convocation' for your rights.  You have to pay extra if you don't turn up in person to collect your M.A., since you are then not doing your bit for the tourist trade.  Many colleges also give you a good lunch so it's worth making an appearance. If you do turn up to collect it, expect to get hit on the head with a bible by the Vice Chancellor.
Master [The] See the President.
Manciple One of the most important people in a college, responsible for the food!  A little-used word that seems to be making a minor comeback.
Matriculation Ceremony in the Sheldonian for admission to Oxford as a student. Usually a student's first go at wearing Subfusc.
May morning. 1st May when a large number of people get up very early in Oxford, listen to a carol sung from the top of Magdalen College Tower at 6 a.m. and then do generally silly things, especially if they are a student.  Worth getting up for if you have never been or it is a nice sunny morning. If you fancy going for breakfast afterwards, you should book first.
MCR Middle Common Room - for graduate students. [cf., JCR and SCR.]
Medic Short for 'medical student'.  When you have met a few of them, you'll never want to be ill again.  Normally the booziest collection of students in the University.
Mercury The statue in the middle of the main quad of Christ Church.  This is surrounded by a small pond which the more aesthetic undergraduates sometimes frequent after a contretemps with a group of hearties.  Often decorated by students with bows, ribbons, silly hats - fripperies in other words.  If a student is caught decorating Mercury [actually, entering the pond in which he lives] they can expect a 50 fine.  As the pond is rather deep, college porters use a plank to gain access to the statue - and remove said fripperies [so no 50 pound there then!]
Michaelmas Autumn term. [cf., Hilary and Trinity.]
Mods Short for 'Moderations'.  Intermediate exams, normally at the end of the first year.  A class is awarded but it doesn't count towards [or against!] your finals.
Mortar-board Not for brick-layers, but an academic cap with a hard flat square top and a tassel in the middle. It sounds silly and it is silly!  Women normally wear a floppy equivalent.
OED The Oxford English Dictionary from the OUP.
Other place [The] Cambridge.  The less said, the better!
O.U.D.S Oxford University Dramatic Society.  [Pronounced 'owds'.]  Many famous actors and actresses have acted in O.U.D.S. productions including Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Sir John Gielgud, Vivienne Leigh, Richard Burton, Diana Quick, Dudley Moore, Rowan Atkinson and even the greatest actor of them all, Nigel Lawson [now long forgotten]!
OUP The Oxford University Press in Walton Street. Much of the printing side of the operation closed down in recent years apart from local work for the University, but the publishing side of the business is still flourishing.  In particular, its dictionaries are world famous; see the Bibliography on page  for more information.  There is an OUP shop in the High Street if you want to buy one.
Over-bump If two eights bump, the following eight could still 'bump' the eight which was three in front, thus causing an 'over-bump'. Still confused?
Oxbridge Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Note that Oxford is mentioned first - which is quite right.
Oxfam Short for 'Oxford Committee for Famine Relief'.  Charity founded and still based in Oxford.  There are several shops around Oxford, including one in Broad Street and a second-hand bookshop half way up St. Giles on the left hand side.  Recommended.
Oxford Yes there was a ford here once and I suppose oxen probably did cross it.  See Oxford city coat of arms for a picture.
Oxford bags Trousers that are several sizes too large.  Not so popular nowadays. [See also 'debag'.]
Oxford Blue A good dark blue colour, as on the University coat of arms.  Not to be confused with Cambridge Blue, a pale imitation of the real thing!  In 2007 Oxford's website got an overhaul - one of the first comments about this was why were sub-bullets coloured light blue!
Oxford Campaign. Appeal by the University for 200 million.  Have you any money to spare?  4 million was allocated for the new Computing Laboratory building behind 8-11 Keble Road!
Oxford Dikker of Quotaggers [The] Oxford-speak for the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.  A useful reference source for another appendix.
Oxford English Dictionary [The] The biggest dictionary in the world [16 volumes], also know as the for short! The latest edition is available on paper, CD-ROM and even on-line if you pay [which Oxford University haven't so we can't!].  If you want an Oxford Dictionary, try the Oxford University Press shop on the south side of the High Street.
Oxford man A compliment. [cf., a Cambridge man.]
Oxford Marmalade A supposed great favourite on the English breakfast table.  See 'Frank Cooper'.
Oxon Short for the Latin for 'of Oxford [University]' [Oxoniensis].  Often used as a suffix with BA, MA, D.Phil etc.
Oxymoron Not what you think - you can look it up if you don't know.  You'll find it boringly interesting.
Parks [The] University Park, north of the Science Area.  Locked at night.  A good place to sit in a deck chair and watch cricket in the summer.  Excellent for informal workshops!
Parson's Pleasure On the river, where men, until recently, used to sport themselves in their altogether.  Only embarrassing if you recognise your tutor! Ladies could alight on the bank and walk round instead of punting, but rarely did.  Best enjoyed when travelling with a medic who knows all the Latin names of their various ailments! [cf., Dame's Delight.]
Pimms Cocktail of spirits, lemonade, mint, fruit, ice, etc.  Best enjoyed outside on a hot summer's day at Eights Week and the like.  Worth trying at least once.  If you like it, you can buy a bottle at the Heathrow Duty Free Shop on the way home.
Playhouse [The] The Oxford University theatre in Beaumont Street, sadly closed recently due to lack of funds, but now happily reopened.  Do go - you may see a future star from O.U.D.S.
POD Pocket Oxford Dictionary from the OUP.  Probably only pocket-sized if you are wearing Oxford bags!
Porter Guard at the front door of each college.  Can be helpful if you don't look like a tourist. Don't ask one to carry your bags!

Here's a good game: very subtly show your university card to the porters at ChCh whilst surreptitiously inveigling tourists to follow you ... then get ready to hear the porters put those non-members of the university in their place!

Porter's lodge Den of the porter at each college front entrance.  This must normally be passed with care to gain entrance to a college.
Praelector Senior fellow.
Prelims Short for 'Preliminaries'.  Like Mods but you don't get a class.
President [The] See the Principal.
Principal [The] See the Provost.
Proctors The University authorities in charge of the bulldogs, University rules, etc.
Procurator Procurer of money.
Provost [The] See the Rector.
Punt Flat-bottomed boat for enjoyment on the river, especially the Cherwell, in summer months.  Strawberries and Champagne or Pimms also recommended.  You 'punt' [with a pole] from the sloping end at the back rather than the flat end.  In Cambridge they punt from the other end, but to avoid confusion both ends are flat in Cambridge.  You can draw your own conclusions.  First rule of punting: always hang on to the punt rather than the pole [after which you'll realise what the paddle is for].  You'll have to find out the rest of the rules by trying it.
Quad Rectangular courtyard inside a college.  Don't walk on the grass - this is reserved for Dons! [cf., 'court' in Cambridge.]
Queen's Award Recently awarded jointly for Technological Achievement to Inmos Ltd and the Oxford University Computing Laboratory [OUCL] for work using formal methods to design the transputer floating-point unit in 1990 and to IBM UK and OUCL for work using Z in the development of the CICS transaction processing system in 1992.  Coveted by British industry, very few academic institutions have won this award.
Rag Week Students doing various silly things for charity.
Rector [The] See the Dean.
Reader One stop short of becoming a Professor.
Scholarship This used to pay for your time at Oxford if you were poor and clever.  However, inflation being what it is, a scholarship is now mainly honorary [you get about 50 a year] but you do get a bigger gown for extra protection at meal times.  See also 'exhibition'.
Science Area [The] The area mainly between the Parks and South Parks Road where most of the University science departments are located.  See also the Keble Road Triangle.
Sconce From the Concise Oxford Dictionary: [Oxford Univ.] inflict forfeit [or penalty involving drinking] of beer etc. [e.g., a yard of ale] for offence against table etiquette upon [member of company or his offence].
Schools Short for 'examination schools'.  The ultimate horror for many students.  You may request a pint of ale during the exam, but only if you are wearing your ceremonial sword!
Scout Person who cleans college rooms.  Used to be more like a servant in the 'good old days'.  Tip recommended for good service. [cf., 'bedder' in Cambridge].
SCR Senior Common Room - for Fellows. [cf., JCR and MCR.]  At All Souls they only have one of these [no JCR, MCR] - as there are no students at All Souls College.
Second See class.
Sent down To be forcibly expelled by the University or College authorities.  See also 'come up' and 'go down'.
Sheldonian [The] Short for the Sheldonian Theatre, where matriculation and degree ceremonies are held.
Shepherd and Woodward The University clothes shop on the south side of the High.  The place to go if you want a D.J., [new] gown, mortar-board, college scarf, tie, sweat-shirt, cuff links, etc.  If they don't have what you want, you could also try Walter's in the Turl.
Spoonerism The accidental or deliberate transposition of the initial letters etc. of two or more words in a phrase. E.g., ''You have tasted a whole worm.  You have hissed my mystery lectures.  You were caught fighting a liar in the quad.  You will leave by the next town drain.'' Named after Revd. William Archibald Spooner [1844-1930] who was Warden of New College, although many 'original' spoonerisms are now known to be apocryphal.
Sporting the oak Many [some - oh alright, a few] college rooms have two doors.  If the outer door is open, then the occupant is willing to receive visitors; if closed, the occupant is 'sporting the oak' and does not wish to be disturbed.
Statutes Normally strange set of rules set down by the founder of each college.  For example, the laundress at New College must be ''of such age and condition that no sinister suspicion can, or ought to fall on her.''
St. Giles' Fair A traditional fair held on the first Monday and Tuesday of each September in St. Giles.  Recommended if you are around then, but go before 6 p.m. since the prices increase dramatically then, as do the crowds and pickpockets.  The Parks are closed for the day during the fair to prove that they are owned by the University and are not a public right of way.
Subfusc Dark suit, white bow tie, gown and mortar-board worn for matriculations, exams and degree ceremonies.  Women wear something similar. From the Latin subfuscus meaning dark brown, although actually a brown suit would never do!
Stacks [The] A system to squeeze more books into the Bod.  Books are stored on shelves which are right next to each other but may be rolled about to get at the books.  You have to order a book which is in the stacks and somebody will go and try to find it for you.  Rumour has it that the Bodleian is down to its last 10 miles of shelving and it fills them up at a mile a year.  The normal remedy is to dig a new hole somewhere and attach it to the rest of the system by a tunnel.  The vast majority of the Bodleian is underground so you may not be impressed by its size from the top.  It is one of six copyright libraries in Britain, so it automatically gets a free copy of every book published in Britain.  Hence the reason why it fills its empty shelves so fast.
Student Lowest form of life at Oxford, but some aspire to greater things.
Tails Formal dark suit with long dangly bits [the ''tails''] at the back of the jacket.  See 'White Tie'.
Teddy Hall Affectionate name for St. Edmund Hall.  I'm afraid there are not many teddies to be found here, although you can now buy a Teddy Hall [and other college] teddies in the local gift shops.
Torpids The other college rowing event, held in Hilary termEights Week is the big summer event - it's a bit cold in February!
Tour [Oxford]
Town Not referred to in polite University circles.
Townee Towns-person who is not a member of the University.
Town and Gown Oxford City and University, especially in opposition to each other.
Trinity Summer term. [cf., Hilary and Michaelmas.]  Also a college.
Turl [The] See the High.
Third See class. The so called 'Gentleman's Degree'.
Tutor College teacher.  Most students have a 'tutorial' with a tutor at least once a week in term time when they have to think of excuses for what they have been doing all week.  There are normally only one or two students present at a tutorial, so it is the one time of the week when they have to be on their toes.  Otherwise a student's life is quite a restful one.
Union [The] Confusing name for the University debating society.  Not a Student Union in the usual sense.  Many famous and infamous British politicians have started their careers here. Worth getting life membership - it is for life after all!
Univ Short for 'University College'.  This is not to be confused with the University; however it is of course the oldest college.  Legend has it that King Alfred founded it, but unfortunately he lived a couple of hundred years earlier than the generally agreed foundation date [1249]!
Vac Definitely not a vacuum cleaner, but short for 'vacation'.  Name for holidays, because the students are also meant to work for their 'collections' during these.  Full term [when lectures are held] is only eight weeks long, so you get quite a lot of vacation time for extra study.
Varsity 'University', especially when concerned with sport [e.g., varsity match].
Vice-Chancellor The head of the University who is here.  Normally somebody you haven't heard of. [cf., the Chancellor.]
Visitor [The] The equivalent of the Chancellor for a college.
Viva Short for 'Viva Voce'. Oral exam, especially a D.Phil. or if you are a borderline case.
White Tie Formal attire with white bow tie and tails for very posh occasions.  Worn at the more exclusive college balls. [cf., Black Tie.]
Yard of ale Nowadays officially known as a 'metre of lager' due to EC regulations, you normally have to drink one of these if you are 'sconced'.  In essence, it is a lot of beer in a very long glass.

Originally stolen off a page on the comlab's website [Coz, You Never Know When it'll GO!] - then added to by me over time.