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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 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[3] is the term used in Italy to refer to any graduated student. In some Italian regions (Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino), 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 northeastern 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.[4]

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.

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.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ LSJ entry κότινος
  2. ^ "look to one's laurels". Oxford. Retrieved November 13, 2012. 
  3. ^ http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/laureato
  4. ^ Loomer, Jennifer. "Traditions: Laurel Parade". Mount Holyoke Historical Atlas: Traditions of Mount Holyoke College. Mount Holyoke College. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  5. ^ "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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425 news items

News Sentinel
Sat, 19 Apr 2014 16:15:00 -0700

And, if it's Linden or Hall who gets the laurel wreath while listening to the "Star-Spangled Banner" play over Boylston Street, Flanagan will be OK with that, too. "It gives me chills just thinking about that," she said. "If it's not me, I pray that it ...

Boston Globe

Boston Globe
Sat, 19 Apr 2014 13:53:54 -0700

Desisa will run Monday to defend his laurel wreath. Continue reading below. The Boston Marathon is the most famous road race in the world and the oldest continually run marathon in the United States. It has spanned three centuries, starting in 1897 ...
Aurora Beacon News
Sat, 19 Apr 2014 14:11:15 -0700

As for what makes the effort worth it, Sheehy said, “From the locals who volunteer and line the streets to cheer, to all the runners and the elite athletes who covet the laurel wreath placed on the winners head, it is a crowd and atmosphere like no ...
Runner's World Newswire
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 10:15:00 -0700

... happened last year, I remember watching the events unfolding in the hotel with Joanie and immediately saying, 'We're coming back next year,'" said Meyer, who is the most recent American winner of the men's race, having earned the laurel wreath in 1983.
Daily Item
Sat, 19 Apr 2014 00:07:30 -0700

“After the tragedy of last year, for a hometown girl to take the laurel wreath would help the healing process,” two-time women's champion Joan Benoit Samuelson said. “It would help survivors and fellow runners.” She discussed their shared New England ...

Runner's World Newswire

Runner's World Newswire
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 08:11:15 -0700

Although they may not have a shot at the laurel wreath, Edwards and Davila both will have perspective to share with their loved ones before the journey begins. “I'll just tell her to stay in control of all the emotions. Although that's already her ...

ABC News

Thu, 17 Apr 2014 07:03:45 -0700

In 1979, she entered the race as a little-known athlete and won, wearing a Red Sox cap across the finish line. She again took the laurel wreath in 1983. Besides the tradition of the race, what she loves most about Boston is the strength it summons in ...


Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:00 -0700

“But although they dedicated themselves to Aphrodite, it was the Goddess Fortuna who gave the class of '61 the laurel wreath when two members of the '62 hoop race relay team lost their hoops. 13 April 1959. In 1958 Columbia students or “invading ...

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