[bak-uh-lawr-ee-it, -lor-]
a religious service held at an educational institution, usually on the Sunday before commencement day.

1615–25; < Medieval Latin baccalaureātus, equivalent to baccalaure(us) advanced student, bachelor (for baccalārius (see bachelor), alteration by association with Latin phrase bacca laureus laurel berry) + -ātus -ate1

postbaccalaureate, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
baccalaureate (ˌbækəˈlɔːrɪɪt)
1.  the university degree of Bachelor or Arts, Bachelor of Science, etc
2.  an internationally recognized programme of study, comprising different subjects, offered as an alternative to a course of A levels in Britain
3.  (US) a farewell sermon delivered at the commencement ceremonies in many colleges and universities
[C17: from Medieval Latin baccalaureātus, from baccalaureus advanced student, alteration of baccalāriusbachelor; influenced in folk etymology by Latin bāca berry + laureus laurel]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1620s, "university degree of a bachelor," from M.L. baccalaureus "student with the first degree," altered by a play on words with bacca lauri "laurel berry" (laurels being awarded for academic success). The M.L. word perhaps ultimately is derived from L. baculum "staff" (see
bacillus), which the young student might carry, but it is more likely just a re-Latinization of bachelor (q.v.) in its academic sense. In modern U.S. usage, the word usually is short for baccalaureate-sermon (1864), a religious farewell address to the graduating class.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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