Definition of tripos in English:



  • The final honours examination for a BA degree at Cambridge University.

    ‘Part II of the English tripos’
    • ‘He graduated with distinction in the mathematical tripos of 1912.’
    • ‘I became interested in Renaissance while studying for the tripos in Cambridge.’
    • ‘He was a Chinese immigrant at the University of Cambridge, and he needed to pass Part One of the mathematical tripos examination in order to go further.’
    • ‘In 1913, after some frantic cramming, he went up to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, to read for the History tripos.’
    • ‘The mathematician who came first did little work of importance after graduating: this was not at uncommon in the ‘speed test’ which the tripos was at that time.’


Late 16th century: alteration of Latin tripus ‘tripod’, with reference to the stool on which a designated graduate (known as the ‘Tripos’) sat to deliver a satirical speech at the degree ceremony. A sheet of humorous verses (at one time composed by the Tripos) was published on this occasion until the late 19th century, on the back of which the list of successful candidates for the honours degree in mathematics was originally printed; hence the current sense.