Alma mater is an expression of Latin that is used to designate, metaphorically, the university. Its literal translation would be ‘mother nutricia’, because soul means ‘that nourishes’, while mater, matris , translates ‘mother’.
In this sense, the university is considered as a mother, because it provides its children, the students, with the nourishment of the universal knowledge for the professional exercise.
Hence, every regular and graduate student considers that his alma mater is the university where he trained and studied.
Originally, the phrase was used in ancient Rome to refer to the mother goddess and then, with the arrival of Christianity, to the virgin Mary.
However, the origin of its current use comes from the motto of the University of Bologna, the first founded in the West, which is “alma mater studiorum” or, in Spanish, ‘mother nutritious of studies’. Hence, today I designate the academy in the sense of scientific community.
The expression must be written in feminine, in italics (because it is a Latinism), and without tilde: la alma mater. It is not correct to use “the soul mater“, as typically seen to avoid the cacophony written in Spanish produces a tonic feminine nouns with the feminine article. In this case, as it is the Latin expression soul, which is an adjective and as such is not affected by this rule, it is advisable to say “the alma mater“.
On the other hand, the use of alma mater to refer to a person who gives life or impulse to something should be avoided . For example, in the expression “Cristiano Ronaldo is the alma mater of his team”, it would be advisable to replace the alma mater with, simply, the soul: “Cristiano Ronaldo is the soul of his team”.