In the following video, an expert witness is relating her academic background and, at one point she states that she graduated "cum laude with honours". Having looked at various sources I can see that different countries give somewhat different emphases to these terms.

Skylar Richardson Trial Day 3 Dr Susan Brown - Forensic Pathologist Part 2 & Dr Christa Latham video


As a US citizen, is the doctor:

(a) making a valid distinction between the two terms "cum laude" and "with honours;"

(b) explaining/translating cum laude to the jury;

(c) making her qualification(s) sound grander than they are; or

(d) something else?

EDIT - See comment by @Dan Romik pointing out that (b) and (c) appear to be asking for mind-reading on the part of anyone who answers. I accept this criticism but won't change the question at this point.

  • 9
    This might be a function of which university she attended. It is certainly possible that both would be valid.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 14:11
  • If she's from the US, she probably graduated with "honors" Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 14:17
  • @Dan Romik - That is a fair point. I've added something about that. Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 18:38
  • 1
    I think it's clear from the video that she is presenting them as two different things. I'd argue that the real issue is the use of "with", as it makes it sound like it's the honours belongs to the "cum laude" qualification rather than the degree. But happy to accept that it's understood to mean that both apply to the degree. If "cum laude and honours" is not in common use then it might cause confusion and actually sound pretentious. :-)
    – RobG
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 22:11

1 Answer 1


There is no doubt in my mind the person in question earned two different distinctions, and used them correctly. Here are some examples at how they might be used throughout the US.

  • At my undergraduate institution, "Latin honors" (cum laude) were solely a function of your overall GPA. The minimum to earn each distinction was a percentile determined from the previous year's distribution. (so the 90th percentile in 2020 becomes the minimum for cum laude in 2021). At that school, it was by college, not department, e.g. College of Arts and Sciences or College of Engineering.

    • cum laude was the 90th percentile, or a GPA >= 3.79 (Arts and Sciences)
    • magna cum laude was the 97th percentile, or a GPA >= 3.89.
    • summa cum laude was the 99.5th percentile, or a GPA >= 3.97.
  • At my graduate institution, you have to complete an extra thesis to be eligible. At Aliden's, you had to be enrolled in the honors program to earn Latin Honors at all.

  • My undergrad had various "Honors." I graduated "cum laude with College Honors," it says so on my diploma. I was just about 0.01 GPA point shy of magna, sigh.

    • "with Honors" was a distinction earned by taking classwork in the Honors College, which you had to be admitted into.

    • "with Departmental Honors" was earned based on departmental requirements, often a thesis, where one wasn't required.

    • "with College Honors" was completing both college and departmental programs.

  • Finally, there is also "with (high) distinction," which is also often based on GPA.

Likely the person in your question completed some sort of honors curriculum or thesis (hard to tell what) as well as had a high GPA.

  • 5
    My diploma shows something similar though not precisely the same. It indicates I was a member of the "Honors Program" which had separate (additional) requirements - course and thesis. I was a mere Cum Laude, though.
    – Buffy
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 14:45
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    This matches my undergraduate experience exactly; it seems to be a pretty common distinction in the US between honors programs/coursework and GPA-based honors.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Aug 26, 2020 at 15:27
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    Mine was actually the opposite, and the language was slightly different. Latin honors were through the University Honors Program and were based on GPA and thesis, while "with distinction" and "with high distinction" were through the college and based on GPA.
    – Aliden
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 3:04
  • 2
    THANK YOU so much for clarifying this! I'm UK-based (Scotland) and it's slightly different terminology here. "Honours" is the extra coursework/year at university. Degree/honours classification (first, 2:1, 2:2, third for honours; merit or distinction for degree or course) is how well you did. Not relevant to the question but maybe helpful to someone as a comparison.
    – Pam
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 11:14
  • 1
    Matches usage at my school and both my kids' schools FWIW Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 15:23

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