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early 15c., "one who holds a degree" (with man; as a stand-alone noun from mid-15c.), from Medieval Latin graduatus, past participle of graduari "to take a degree," from Latin gradus "step, grade" (see grade). As an adjective, from late 15c.
early 15c., "to confer a university degree upon," from Medieval Latin graduatus (see graduate (n.)). Intransitive sense from 1807. Related: Graduated; graduating.