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A golden laurel wreath, origin: probably Cyprus, 4th—3rd century BC.
A laurel wreath decorating a memorial at the Folketing, the national parliament of Denmark.

A laurel wreath is a circular wreath made of interlocking branches and leaves of the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), an aromatic broadleaf evergreen, or later from spineless butcher's broom (Ruscus hypoglossum) or cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus). In Greek mythology, Apollo is represented wearing a laurel wreath on his head. In ancient Greece wreaths were awarded to victors, both in athletic competitions, including the ancient Olympics made of wild olive-tree known as "kotinos" (κότινος),[1] (sc. at Olympia) and in poetic meets; in Rome they were symbols of martial victory, crowning a successful commander during his triumph. Whereas ancient laurel wreaths are most often depicted as a horseshoe shape, modern versions are usually complete rings.

In common modern idiomatic usage it refers to a victory. The expression "resting on one's laurels" refers to someone relying entirely on long-past successes for continued fame or recognition, where to "look to one's laurels" means to be careful of losing rank to competition.[2]

Academic use[edit]

Ovid with laurel wreath, common in poets.

In some countries the laurel wreath is used as a symbol of the master's degree. The wreath is given to young masters in the graduation ceremony of the university. The word "Laureate" in 'poet laureate' refers to being signified by the laurel wreath. The medieval Florentine poet and philosopher Dante Alighieri, a graduate of the Sicilian School, is often represented in paintings and sculpture wearing a laurel wreath.

laureato is the term used in Italy to refer to any graduated student. In Italy, right after the graduation ceremony (in Italian: laurea), the student receives a laurel wreath and is allowed to wear it for the rest of the day. This tradition was born in the University of Padua and since the end of the 19th century is common to all Italian universities.

At Connecticut College in the United States, members of the junior class carry a laurel chain, which the seniors pass through during commencement. It represents nature and the continuation of life from year to year. Immediately following commencement, the junior girls write out with the laurels their class year, symbolizing they have officially become seniors and the period will repeat itself the following spring.

At Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, USA, laurel has been a fixture of commencement traditions since 1900, when graduating students carried or wore laurel wreaths. In 1902, the chain of mountain laurel was introduced; since then, tradition has been for seniors to parade around the campus, carrying and linked by the chain. The mountain laurel represents the bay laurel used by the Romans in wreaths and crowns of honor.[3]

At Reed College in Portland, Oregon, United States, members of the senior class receive laurel wreaths upon submitting their senior thesis in May. The tradition stems from the use of laurel wreaths in athletic competitions; the seniors have "crossed the finish line," so to speak.

At St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts, students who successfully complete three years of one classical language and two of the other earn the distinction of the Classics Diploma and the honor of wearing a laurel wreath on Prize Day.

In Sweden, those receiving a doctorate or an honorary doctorate at the Faculty of Philosophy (meaning philosophy, languages, arts, history and social sciences), receive a laurel wreath during the ceremony of conferral of the degree.

In Finland, in University of Helsinki a laurel wreath is given during the ceremony of conferral for masters's degree. Doctors wear special kind of Doctoral hat.

Architectural and decorative arts motif[edit]

"Victory, A Knight Being Crowned With A Laurel Wreath" by Frank Dicksee.

The laurel wreath is a common motif in architecture, furniture, and textiles. The laurel wreath is seen carved in the stone and decorative plaster works of Robert Adam, and in Federal, Regency, Directoire, and Beaux-Arts periods of architecture. In decorative arts, especially during the Empire period, the laurel wreath is seen woven in textiles, inlaid in marquetry, and applied to furniture in the form of gilded brass mounts. Alfa Romeo added a laurel wreath to their logo after they won the inaugural Automobile World Championship in 1925 with the P2 racing car.

Wreath of Service[edit]

The "wreath of service" is located on all commissioner position patches in the Boy Scouts of America. This is a symbol for the service rendered to units and the continued partnership between volunteers and professional Scouter. The Wreath of Service represents commitment to program and unit service.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ LSJ entry κότινος
  2. ^ "look to one's laurels". Oxford. Retrieved November 13, 2012. 
  3. ^ Loomer, Jennifer. "Traditions: Laurel Parade". Mount Holyoke Historical Atlas: Traditions of Mount Holyoke College. Mount Holyoke College. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  4. ^ "The History of Commissioner Service". Golden Empire Council. Retrieved 9 June 2006. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurel_wreath — Please support Wikipedia.
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Londonderry Today

Londonderry Today
Sat, 20 Dec 2014 02:18:45 -0800

... Edwards from Derry City Council's Museum service pictured following a talk on the nationalist contribution to the Great War in the Tower Museum which was followed by the laying of a Laurel Wreath at the Cenotaph in Londonderry. Picture Martin McKeown.
Fri, 19 Dec 2014 19:45:00 -0800

Residents looking for a Christmas Eve worship experience will have plenty of choice in Northern Solano County. The custom of combining Christmas celebration with the light of candle dates back for many centuries. In fact, according to CatholicCulture ...

Greenwich Time

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Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:56:15 -0800

I was a shepherd (towel head dress and bath robe) and Caesar Augustus (laurel wreath and bath robe). As well as two costumes I also had two speeches -- one for each part. Caesar Augustus came on first. My mum had given me some coaching, which ...
Thu, 18 Dec 2014 21:57:20 -0800

The medal's reverse has a laurel wreath and Civil Air Patrol symbols, along with the phrase “honor civilian volunteers who flew armed & humanitarian missions.” The Senate passed legislation authorizing the Congressional Gold Medal in May 2013 and the ...

Irish Examiner

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Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:33:45 -0800

The winner of the Boston Marathon nowadays receives $150,000 (€122,000) in prize money but for his 2:10:30 effort, Hill received a medal and a laurel wreath. “My airfare wasn't even paid; the money came from a fund set up by the Road Runners Club, just ...

Times of Malta

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Thu, 18 Dec 2014 01:33:45 -0800

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Sat, 13 Dec 2014 21:19:56 -0800

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