Oxford jargon

This is a page which attempts to provide a glossary for all the jargon and slang found at Oxford. Some of it is in official use, whereas some of it is just student slang. Please note that it’s not the case that all these words are used by all people at Oxford – some, too, may fall out of use in the years to come.


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Ashmolean The Oxford University museum of art and archaeology, founded by Elias Ashmole in 1683. On Beaumont St.
Battels The termly charges made to you by college. Includes accommodation, JCR levy, etc.
Blue An award in the form of a jacket, or the holder of such an award, for outstanding sporting achievement at the university level. Only awarded to competitors in certain sports in the yearly match against Cambridge.
Bod Short for Bodleian, the main university library.
Bod card Blue university student identification card, received on arrival as a fresher.
Bop College party in the beer cellar. Fancy dress, cheap drinks, and cheesy music, typically.
Bulldog A nickname for the Proctors, the university security force.
Bursar The college’s chief financial officer.
Buttery The college kitchens. Place to go to buy wine before formal or request butter/milk/tea when run out.
Carfax The junction of High St, St. Aldates, Queen St and Cornmarket St.
Cherwell (1) A tributary of the Thames which runs through Oxford, common for punting.
(2) The name of the independent Oxford student newspaper.
Collection (1) College exam taken at the start of term on material covered in the previous term
(2) Meeting held at the end of term with your college tutor to discuss your progress
Coming up  Arriving at Oxford
Commoner A student who is not awarded a Scholarship or Exhibition.
Corpuscle A person who goes to Corpus.
Corpus Challenge Annual sporting event against Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
Cuppers Intercollegiate competitions in many sports.
Dean Fellow responsible for student behaviour. To be ‘deaned’ is to be sent to the Dean.
DoS ‘Director of Studies,’ the senior academic in college responsible for your academics.
Domestic Bursar College official responsible for domestic matters: accommodation, food, security, etc.
Don A professor, lecturer, tutor, fellow or academic otherwise.
Easter Egg

A secret feature, usually only found by paying close attention to detail.

Eights Inter-collegiate rowing races held in Trinity Term, often ‘Summer Eights.’
Entz Short for Entertainment, organised by the JCR.
Exhibition An award given by college to students who performed well in university examinations but just missed out on a scholarship, or otherwise worthy of special recognition. At Corpus, attached to £200 payment.
Fellow Senior member of college who, with other Fellows, constitutes the Governing Body of the college.
Finals The exams you sit at the end of your degree which determine your degree classification. The Second Public Examination.
Final Honours School The portion of your degree after Prelims or Mods, i.e., that which is examined by finals.
First Public Examination Either Prelims or Mods. Often abbreviated to F.P.E., the first university examinations you sit, in contrast to the Second Public Examination.
Formal A traditional meal held on Friday evenings in college. Suit or smart dress required. Need to sign up.
Full Term The undergraduate teaching period at Oxford. Eight weeks long, in Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity.
Going down Leaving Oxford.
Greats Classics, the degree.
Hack Quasi-derogatory term for a person involved in student politics or journalism.
Hall (1) The dining hall in college where all purchased meals are eaten
(2) Any meal bought in college
High Table The literally high table at the end of hall where Fellows, the President and their guests dine at Formal.
Hilary Often shortened to Hil or HT, the second of the three Oxford terms, running from January to mid-March.
Isis (1) The segment of the river Thames which runs through Oxford.
(2) The ‘edgy’ magazine, the oldest student publication in the world.
JCR (1) Junior Common Room, the literal common room for undergraduates. On the right before stairs on staircase 7.
(2) The undergraduate body of the college.
John Evelyn Named after the famous diarist, a long running gossip column in the Cherwell.
Long Vac The vacation between Trinity and Michaelmas, over summer. Lasts from mid-June to October.
Manciple The Head Chef/Kitchen Manager. Currently Jimmy Hinton.
Matriculation The formal process of admitting new students to the university. Takes place on the Saturday of 1st week in Michaelmas.
MCR (1) Middle Common Room, the common room for postgraduates.
(2) The graduate student body of the college.
Michaelmas The first of the Oxford terms, from early October to early December.
Mods ‘Moderations,’ the examinations sat at the end of Hilary Term of first year by lawyers and psychologists, and the examinations sat at the end of Hilary Term of second year by classicists. A form of First Public Examination.
Norrington Table A league table of colleges by degree classifications awarded. To be taken with a large pinch of salt.
Ninth Week The week after Full Term. Undergraduate exams are sometimes held in Ninth Week.
Noughth Week The week before the beginning of Full Term.
Oxford Union Oxford’s foremost platform for visiting speakers and debates, a debating society rather than a a student union and not to be confused with the Oxford University Student Union (OUSU).
Oxbridge A collective term for Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
Oxford SU Oxford University Student Union, the federal student union of the university. Not to be confused with the Oxford Union.
Paper A module of your degree
Pelican The sundial in the quad with the gold pelican on it. The symbol of Corpus.
Pigeon Post Nickname for the free internal mail service of the university. Simply give the Porters an envelope with a college or departmental address and it will be delivered, free of charge.
Porter Vital members of college staff who are a combination of receptionists and security staff. They also know everything that goes on in college. Can be found in the Porters’ Lodge.
Plummer Underground place in the basement of Thomas Building where laundry is done, featuring lockers and changing rooms, named after Charles Plummer, who was a Fellow of Corpus from 1873 to 1927. Charles Plummer was ordained Deacon in 1875 and from then until his death in 1927 he was Chaplain of the College.
PPE The degree Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
PPL The degree Philosophy, Psychology and Linguistics.
Prelims Preliminaries, Preliminary Examinations are sat at the end of the first year by those not sitting Mods. Need to pass to continue your degree. A form of First Public Examination.
President The head of house at Corpus Christi College. Currently Professor Helen Moore.
Prox The fob which will give you entry to college at night, the library at all times and other private areas of college.
Punt scheme A co-operative scheme in Trinity that costs £10 and grants unlimited punting during the term.
Quad Quadrangle. The big square space in the middle of college, the focal point of college life. There are other quads, but ‘the quad’ is the most important one and the first you’ll see.
Rustication The withdrawal of the right of access to the land, buildings and facilities of the University, including teaching, exams and all related academic services, for a fixed period of time or until specified conditions are met. It usually occurs as a result of a major disciplinary offence.
Second Public Examination Finals, as opposed to Prelims/Mods. Equivalent to Final Honours School.
Schools (1) The Examinations Schools, where lectures and exams are held, at the end of the High Street.
(2) “To take Schools” to refer to sitting finals/S.P.E, rarely
Scholarship Award for achieving a First or Distinction in Mods or Prelims. Comes with £200 grant and right to wear a special gown.
Sconce Both a verb and a noun, a sconce is an instance of never-have-I-ever where you have lost. You sconce somebody for having done something seen as outrageous.
Scout College staff who clean your room.
Sending down Expulsion from the university.
SCR Senior Common Room; the room and the collective body of tutors, fellows and lecturers.
Subfusc Formal attire worn by students and academics on formal occasions, including matriculation, examinations and graduation. It is made up of a dark suit, skirt or trousers, a white shirt or blouse and a white or black bow tie, black full-length tie or black ribbon, worn with a black gown and a mortar-board. The name derives from the Latin subfuscus, meaning dark brown.
Tab Person who attends Cambridge University.
Torpids Inter-collegiate rowing races held in Hilary Term.
The Other Place Cambridge University
Trinity The third Oxford term, in summer. From late April to mid-June.
Tutor Someone who teaches a student on an individual basis or in a small group. Gives tutorials.
Tutorial Undergraduates attend at least one hour-long tutorial every week, either on a one-to-one basis or with one or two other students. Students must undertake a considerable number of hours’ preparatory work for each tutorial, including background reading, essay-writing and problem-solving. What makes Oxford Oxford! Often shortened to ‘tute.’
The Union The Oxford Union.
U-key A key which lets you into areas of college not accessible to the public and not yet set up to work with a Prox, such as the Plummer.
Vac Abbreviation of vacation.
Varsity A competition in any field between Oxford and Cambridge.