AskDefine | Define valedictorian

Dictionary Definition

valedictorian n : the student with the best grades who delivers the valedictory at graduation [syn: valedictory speaker]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Properly: The individual in a graduating class who delivers the farewell or valedictory address, usually the person who graduates with the highest grades.
  2. Colloquially: The individual in a graduating class who graduates with the highest grades.

Extensive Definition

Valedictorian is an academic title typically conferred upon the highest ranked student within the graduating class of an educational institution. The term is an anglicized derivation of the Latin vale dicere ("to say farewell"), historically rooted in the valedictorian's traditional role as the final speaker at the graduation ceremony. The valedictory address is generally considered a final farewell to classmates, before they disperse as a collective group in order to pursue their individual paths after graduating. The title of class valedictorian is common in educational institutions in the United States and Canada, while its equivalent in Australia, New Zealand and Scotland is dux.
How an individual school confers the title and determines its criteria varies from institution to institution. Generally, the graduate deemed to be the highest academically ranked student in the class, as determined by the academic criteria of the school, is conferred the title of class valedictorian. Some institutions confer the title to the class member chosen to deliver the final graduation address, regardless of the speaker's academic credentials. Historically and traditionally, however, schools confer the title upon the top ranking graduate of the class, who thereby earns the honor of delivering the valedictory address.
Some institutions award the title based upon various criteria such as overall academic record of grades and credits, a student's grade-point-average, the level of rigor within a student's academic program of studies, a vote by school administrators and/or members of the graduating class, the level of participation in and dedication to extracurricular activities, and one's public-speaking skills and abilities. In other schools, the position may be elected by the school body or appointed directly by the school administration based on various systems of merit. Some schools may feature "co-valedictorians" in lieu of conferring the title to a single individual from among the graduating class. This may be done in the case of a numerical tie in grade-point-averages, as part of a Latin honors system, or to promote a form of affirmative action such as gender or racial balance.
The valedictory address is the closing or farewell statement delivered at a graduation ceremony. It is an oration at commencement exercises in US high schools, colleges, and universities delivered by one of the graduates. The mode of discourse is generally inspirational and persuasive. The various aims of this address are to inspire the graduates and to thank individuals responsible for their successes. Above all, however, the primary aim of the valedictory address is to allow a representative of the graduating class to bid a final farewell to the students and to the school, as the graduates prepare to disperse and to move forward.


The awarding of the valedictorian honor can be the subject of heated controversy. Often the differences separating the top student from the nearest competitors are small and there are sometimes accusations that the winner took advantage of the rules in a way that seemed unfair, such as taking extra easy courses to get additional credits. Some schools have dropped the honor or changed the rules to allow multiple recipients. In turn, such changes have led to complaints that it is unfair to change the rules after a competition has begun. The New Jersey Commissioner of Education, for example, required schools to make changes to valedictorian award policy effective only for the incoming freshman class, not students already enrolled.

See also


valedictorian in Italian: Valedictorian
means that is u get an 4.0 since First grade that is what valedictorian means
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