from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A youth or any person of either sex under the care of an instructor or tutor; in general, a scholar; a disciple.
  • noun A ward; a youth or person under the care of a guardian.
  • noun In civil law, a person under puberty (fourteen for males, twelve for females), over whom a guardian has been appointed.
  • Under age; in a state of pupilage or nonage; minor.
  • noun The orifice of the iris; the hole or opening in the iris through which light passes.
  • noun In zoology: The central dark part of an ocellated spot. See ocellus, 4.
  • noun A dark, apparently interior, spot seen in the compound eyes of certain insects, and changing in position as it is viewed from different sides.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A youth or scholar of either sex under the care of an instructor or tutor.
  • noun A person under a guardian; a ward.
  • noun (Civil Law) A boy or a girl under the age of puberty, that is, under fourteen if a male, and under twelve if a female.
  • noun (Anat.) The aperture in the iris; the sight, apple, or black of the eye. See the Note under eye, and iris.
  • noun (Med.) the pupil of the eye when so contracted (as it sometimes is in typhus, or opium poisoning) as to resemble a pin hole.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun anatomy The hole in the middle of the iris of the eye, through which light passes to be focused on the retina.
  • noun law, obsolete An orphan who is a minor and under the protection of the state.
  • noun A student under the supervision of a teacher or professor.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a young person attending school (up through senior high school)
  • noun a learner who is enrolled in an educational institution
  • noun the contractile aperture in the center of the iris of the eye; resembles a large black dot


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Anglo-Norman pupille ("orphan"), from Latin pūpillus ("orphan, minor"), variant of pūpulus ("little boy"), from pūpus ("child, boy").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word pupil.


  • The other pupil is also a Scotch Lad Brother to Sir — Ramsey; but I don't like him, and of course he will never come to much.

    Letter 320 2009

  • Often the curiosity of the child concerning a letter leads us to teach that desired consonant; a name pronounced may awaken in him a desire to know what consonants are necessary to compose it, and this will, or willingness, of the pupil is a much more efficacious means than any rule concerning the progression of the letters.

    The Montessori Method Anne E. Montessori George 1912

  • "Therefore, the Liberal Democrats have proposed the concept of what we call a pupil premium, an enhanced level of funding".

    Epolitix News 2010

  • Five church schools, in Blackburn, Birmingham, Bradford, Oldham and London, have become 99 per cent Muslim and in two – another school in Blackburn and one in Dewsbury – every pupil is Muslim.

    RNB Roundup: a compendium of religion news stories 2009

  • As near as I can tell a statistical study of word usage or a psychology lab experiment in pupil dilation upon seeing four letter words would hit your concentric levels of criticism square in the bullseye.

    More on Critique Hal Duncan 2009

  • Huerta argues that HCZ's blanket approach to its neighbourhood's social needs means that the financial cost per pupil is too high to be replicated nationwide.

    Can Geoffrey Canada rescue America's ailing schools? Barack Obama hopes so Paul Harris in Harlem 2010

  • In fact, the sheer enjoyment of an apt pupil is what leads some academic to try to land jobs at those research 1 schools, where they can teach grad students. musa Says:

    Matthew Yglesias » Performance Bonuses 2009

  • In the classroom, one pupil is "studying a stick", another is operating on a toy cow, while another is learning belly dancing.

    Film my school: despicable us Janet Murray 2010

  • Besides, Harmon's star pupil is Phil Mickelson (FSY), who is trying to replace Woods at No. 1.

    Haney spares himself (and Tiger) lots of innuendo 2010

  • As near as I can tell a statistical study of word usage or a psychology lab experiment in pupil dilation upon seeing four letter words would hit your concentric levels of criticism square in the bullseye.

    More on Critique Hal Duncan 2009


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • I read that Leonardo da Vinci said something along the lines of "it is a poor pupil who does not surpass his master." Are we largely then a race of poor pupils? Because if we weren't, wouldn't our progress toward perfection have skyrocketed by now? If everyone always got better as the generations wore on, shouldn't we be enlightened, beautiful, sublime, war-hunger-poverty-hate free by now?

    October 17, 2007

  • Well, wouldn't that assume, though, that the general body of human knowledge stays constant? In real life, it hardly does, and in fact (in terms of sheer volume) it's grown ever larger since da Vinci's time. So even if we are excellent pupils, isn't there just more and more to learn with every generation?

    October 17, 2007

  • I agree, rt. I used to think, when I was a kid, how patently unfair it was to have to memorize all the presidents. Kids 100 years ago had half as many to memorize! Not fair.

    That said... npydyuan's point (or da Vinci's) is a good one: the best pupils are going to eventually be better than the people who taught them, because there *is* more to learn, and to continually learn is what makes a good pupil.

    Unless you're talking about pupil in the eyeball sense, in which case... all bets are off.

    October 17, 2007

  • Haha! Fewer presidents to learn! The thought never crossed my mind when I was a kid.

    Right, I agree. I meant that our progress toward perfection may not appear to be as swift simply because there's more to learn. Thus, we remain relatively (and unfortunately) unenlightened, unbeautiful, unsublime, and still with war-hunger-poverty-hate.

    Though in my view, it's still a good life. :-)

    On the other hand, I don't think eyeballs really learn much at all. At least not that we're aware.

    October 17, 2007

  • Apparently, eyeballs make lousy pupils. Ahuh! Huhhuh! < -- weak, upper-class-twit laugh.

    October 18, 2007

  • I feel very strongly about this. It is our lot in life to do a little better than those before us. To give our children a little more than our parent gave us. To add a little bit to science and culture, making the whole of humanity a little bit greater for our presence.

    October 18, 2007

  • Eh, only if you believe in evolution. ;-)

    October 18, 2007

  • Well said, seanahan.

    October 18, 2007

  • Huh. I'd never noticed the connections between pupil, pupa, and puppy before.

    February 27, 2017