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What do you call a Yale student?

What do you call a Yale student?

Yale University, located in New Haven, Connecticut, is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the United States. Founded in 1701, Yale is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the country, behind only Harvard and William & Mary. Over the last 300 years, Yale has established itself as one of the world’s leading research universities. It is consistently ranked among the top universities globally and has produced numerous distinguished alumni across many fields, from politics to business to the arts.

Yale students and alumni have long been associated with the nickname “Yalies.” This is the term commonly used to refer to current students, graduates, and others affiliated with Yale University. Some other nicknames for Yale students include “Elis” and “Bulldogs.” So if you ask the question “What do you call a Yale student?” the most common and widely recognized answer would be “a Yalie.”

The “Yalie” nickname dates back to the 19th century and has its origins in the university’s history and campus culture. Over time, it has become ingrained into Yale tradition and lore. While students and alumni publicly embrace the “Yalie” moniker with pride, they also use it self-referentially within the campus community.

Beyond just a nickname, “Yalie” also signifies the prestige associated with the university. It connotes a student or graduate of one of the top academic institutions in the United States and the world. It represents a member of an elite intellectual community that values history, academics, and influence in public affairs. For those outside of Yale, the term “Yalie” carries a certain mystique and reputation.

In the following sections, we’ll explore the origins of the “Yalie” nickname, its early historical uses, and how it became the ubiquitous moniker for students and alumni of Yale University.

Origins and Early Usage of “Yalie”

The term “Yalie” came into usage in the mid-19th century as a way for students to refer to their classmates who attended Yale College, which was the school’s official name until 1887. An early appearance in print can be found in the Yale Banner newspaper in 1848, which referred to students who had challenged the faculty as “we Yalies.”

In the late 1860s, Yale student publications frequently included the word “Yalie” when reporting on topics and events related to students. The Yale Courant in 1869 mentioned the return of “Yalies to their duties at the college.” The Yale Record in October 1869 referred to “Yalies who staid in New Haven during vacation.”

The term gained wider use in the 1870s and 1880s, appearing in Yale student songs and chants. The Yale fight song “Down the Field,” written in the 1880s, included the lyrics: “As Eli’s sons go marching onward to victory, Fair Harvard’s fallen before Yale’s mighty blows.” This cemented the idea of “Eli’s sons” and “Yalies” referring to Yale’s student body.

By the early 20th century, the nickname “Yalie” was commonplace on campus and in the city of New Haven. In 1912, the Boston Evening Transcript newspaper reported on a trolley strike in New Haven and referred to “1,400 ‘Yalies’ still marooned in the City of Elms.” The story implied that readers would understand that ‘Yalies’ meant students of Yale.

The nickname also extended beyond campus boundaries, as Yale alumni around the world adopted the “Yalie” moniker after graduation. Yale Clubs, alumni associations, and other Yale graduate organizations routinely used the term in publications, event announcements, and correspondence.

Spread of the “Yalie” Nickname

“Yalie” solidified its place in American vernacular in the early 20th century, as Yale strengthened its reputation as one of the country’s elite universities. As Yale’s national profile grew, so did familiarity with its distinctive student nickname. The term “Yalie” appeared frequently in national newspapers, magazines, literature, and other media.

By the 1930s, major publications like Time magazine and The New Yorker liberally applied the “Yalie” label when referring to Yale students or graduates. When Time put Yale quarterback Larry Kelley on its cover in 1936, its headline read: “Yalie Kelley.”

The 1937 musical comedy film The Toast of New York included a scene where a character stated: “My dear boy, when a Yalie desires a thing, he just takes it.” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories and novels featured “Yalie” characters, assuming readers would understand the term.

Come the 1950s and 1960s, “Yalie” was firmly implanted as a household name associated with Yale. This was solidified by Yale graduates like George H.W. Bush rising to national political prominence. A 1988 article in the Washington Post referred to the “Yalie establishment” Bush represented.

Current Usage as Universal Nickname

Today, the term “Yalie” is recognized globally as the nickname for any current student or graduate of Yale University. It is used regularly in everyday conversation, media reporting, and Yale community events.

On campus, Yale students self-identify as Yalies with pride. The Yale Alumni Magazine is filled with references to Yalies. At Yale reunions and athletic events, attendees wear hats and shirts emblazoned with “Yalie” and “Yale.” When Yale students or alumni introduce themselves to others, saying “I’m a Yalie” is shorthand for explaining their educational background.

Media outlets universally apply “Yalie” to refer to people connected to Yale. Headlines will mention “Yalies in the News” or “Prominent Yalies.” Famous alumni like Meryl Streep or Hillary Clinton are frequently labeled as “renowned Yalie actors/politicians.” There is no confusion as to what being a “Yalie” signifies.

The term has also taken on some subtle connotations – both positive and negative. Supporters of Yale take pride in the “Yalie” title, equating it with academic excellence and success. Critics sometimes use “Yalie” derisively to imply elitism or pretentiousness on the part of Yale graduates.

Regardless of context, the moniker “Yalie” has become deeply rooted as the signature nickname for members of the Yale community. Any student, former student, faculty member, or graduate who is asked “What do you call a Yale student?” would instantly reply: “A Yalie.” The name captures over 300 years of history and tradition dating back to Yale’s colonial beginnings.

Other Yale Nicknames

While “Yalie” is by far the most common nickname, there are a few other names sometimes associated with Yale students and alumni:

  • Elis – Derived from Yale’s unofficial mascot, Handsome Dan the Bulldog, whose name comes from 19th century British slang “eli,” meaning highest quality.
  • Bulldogs – A reference to Handsome Dan, the Yale mascot since 1889.
  • Sons of Eli – Used in fight songs and chants, such as “Fair Harvard’s fallen before Yale’s mighty blows.”
  • Blue – For the Yale school color, royal blue.

However, these nicknames are used infrequently, usually only within limited contexts like sports chants. “Yalie” maintains widespread recognition as the definitive nickname for members of the Yale community.

Notable Yalies

Throughout its distinguished history, Yale University has produced a remarkable number of influential leaders and pioneers across many fields. Here are just a few of the most prominent “Yalies”:

Name Field Class Year
Hillary Rodham Clinton Politics 1973
George H.W. Bush Politics, Public Service 1948
Meryl Streep Acting 1975
Sonia Sotomayor Law, Judiciary 1979
Frances Arnold Chemistry 1979
Clarence Thomas Law, Judiciary 1974
Garry Trudeau Journalism, Art 1970
Paul Krugman Economics 1974
Dick Cheney Politics, Public Service Did not graduate
Oliver Wendell Holmes Law, Judiciary 1861

Yale’s Reputation as an Elite University

Yale’s nickname and prestige stem from its long history and record of academic excellence:

  • Founded in 1701, third oldest college in the United States after Harvard and William & Mary.
  • Ranked #3 university in the U.S. in the 2023 U.S. News & World Report rankings.
  • Ranked #7 in the world in the 2023 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
  • Ranked #3 best global university by U.S. News & World Report.
  • 14% undergraduate acceptance rate, making it one of the most selective colleges.
  • Graduated more living billionaires than all but 3 universities worldwide (Stanford, Harvard, UPenn).
  • Alumni have won 5 Fields Medals, 49 Nobel Prizes, and dozens of national academic and public service honors.
  • $41.9 billion endowment as of 2022, 2nd largest educational endowment in the world behind only Harvard.

Yale’s continued reputation for prestige and academic excellence among the world’s universities strengthens its nickname recognition and connotations of achievement associated with being a “Yalie.”

The Yale Student Experience

What is it actually like to be a student at Yale University? Here are some key facts about the student experience:

  • Total enrollment of 13,609 students (6,092 undergraduates, 7,517 graduate/professional students).
  • Over 80% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • 54% of Yale undergrads receive need-based scholarships, average grant is around $53,000.
  • 339 student organizations, ranging from performing arts to community service.
  • Over 20% of Yale students go on to careers in academia and research.
  • 25-30% pursue business and finance careers after Yale.
  • 85-90% of Yale grads are employed or in graduate school within 6 months after graduation.
  • Unique residential college system – students live in 1 of 14 residential colleges with dining halls, libraries, and intramural sports teams.

The Yale student experience is marked by rigorous academics, abundant resources, vibrant campus life, and strong career outcomes. Most Yalies look back proudly at their time on campus and the lifelong connections it gave them.

Famous Yale Traditions

As one of the oldest universities in America, Yale boasts a number of long-standing traditions and events that mark the student experience. Here are some of the most famous:

  • Yale Bulldogs – Attending football games at Yale Bowl to cheer on the Bulldogs football team.
  • The Game – The annual Yale vs. Harvard football game, dating back to 1875.
  • Class Day – Senior event held 2 days before graduation including speeches, hats, and music.
  • Prank Day – A day before The Game when Yale and Harvard students play pranks on each other.
  • Tap Night – When seniors at Yale’s secret societies learn if they are tapped for membership.

These traditions and others like the Yale Whiffenpoofs a cappella group, the Yale Glee Club, and Yale’s famous libraries help give Yalies a sense of community and connect them to generations past.

Notable Yale Locations

The Yale University campus in downtown New Haven, Connecticut contains a number of famous buildings and locations:

  • Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library – Houses Yale’s collection of literary archives and rare books.
  • Sterling Memorial Library – Yale’s main library, with 4 million volumes.
  • Yale Peabody Museum – Yale’s natural history and anthropology museum.
  • Yale Center for British Art – Home to the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom.
  • Yale Bowl – Historic football stadium seating over 61,000 people.
  • Woolsey Hall – Used for concerts by Yale School of Music and ceremonies.
  • Payne Whitney Gymnasium – Home gym and training center for Yale’s athletes and teams.

From world-class libraries to athletic facilities to academic buildings, Yale’s campus features prominently in the daily life of Yalies.

Famous Yale Residential Colleges

One of the unique aspects of Yale is its residential college system. Upon starting at Yale, each student is randomly assigned to one of 14 residential colleges where they will live, dine, and participate in activities. The residential colleges compete in intramurals and foster a sense of community. Here are 5 of Yale’s most renowned residential colleges:

College Year Founded Notable Alumni
Branford College 1933 Bob Woodward, Ben Silbermann
Davenport College 1933 Garry Trudeau, Kurt Schmoke
Pierson College 1933 George H.W. Bush, Paul Giamatti
Saybrook College 1933 Dick Cheney, Brian Dowling
Timothy Dwight College 1935 Meryl Streep, Charles Johnson

Yalies form strong bonds and traditions with their residential colleges that they’ll proudly carry throughout their lives.


In conclusion, the most common term for a student or graduate of Yale University is “Yalie.” This nickname dates back over 150 years and is deeply woven into the culture and identity of the university. Today, it signifies an elite level of academic excellence and prestige. While Yale has produced leaders across all fields, from presidents to CEOs to justices, they are united by the bonds of affection for and pride in their alma mater. So when you ask “What do you call a Yale student?” – the answer is simple: “Yalie!”