AskDefine | Define prom

Dictionary Definition

prom n : a formal ball held for a school class toward the end of the academic year [syn: promenade]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • prŏm, /prɒm/, /prQm/
  • Rhymes: -ɒm


  1. a promenade concert
  2. In the context of "UK|abbreviation}} promenade

Extensive Definition

In the United States and Canada a prom, short for promenade, is used to describe a semi-formal (black tie) dance held at the end of an academic year. In the United Kingdom, the term is more widely understood to be in reference to a season of classical concerts or "proms", which have been held between July and September since 1895, today run by the BBC. The British synonym for the North American event would be Leavers' Ball, Leavers' Dinner or informally Leavers' Do, closer to the Australian description (see below.) In Canada the terms Grad or Formal are most common and the event is usually only held for those in their graduating year of high school or middle school.
While proms at smaller schools may hold a school prom open to the entire student body, large high schools may hold two proms, a junior prom for those finishing their 11th grade year and a senior prom for those who are finishing their high school years. The name is derived from the late nineteenth century practice of a promenade ball. The end of year tradition stemmed from the graduation ball tradition.
Boys usually dress in black tie (a dinner jacket and bow tie), sometimes with brightly colored cummerbunds or vests, though any sort of formal wear can be worn. Traditionally, girls gave boys matching boutonnieres to be worn on their tuxedos or waistcoats. Girls traditionally wear formal gowns or dresses adorned with a corsage given to them by their dates.
Common prom activities include dining, dancing, the crowning of a prom King and Queen, and socializing.
Some universities and colleges have proms as well, depending on the size of the graduating class in a faculty or department.

Prom King and Queen

A Prom King and Queen are high school students, generally seniors, who are elected to be traditional prom "royalty" at American and Canadian high schools. The honor is usually bestowed by fellow students casting votes and electing their king and queen from a set of nominated candidates called the Prom Court. In general, kings and queens are involved in a number of activities including sports, extracurricular clubs, class offices, and other activities that get them noticed by their peers, which can lead to many votes. Candidates may also campaign for the honor.
The practice of crowning a Prom King and Queen is uncommon in Britain and Australia, though widespread in the USA and Canada.

Related social gatherings

Some American Christian high schools and colleges that disallow school-sponsored dances will host a Junior/Senior. Rather than dancing being the main planned event, a banquet is served. Typically, students still dress in formal attire and even bring dates. The tradition of Junior/Senior is popular at small Christian colleges such as Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, and Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois.
As described in the introduction, in British English, such an event might be called a ball. In Australian and New Zealand schools the terms used are either School Formal or simply Formal. If the event is not relegated solely to the final year, it is sometimes called a Dinner-dance, Leavers' Dinner, Debutante Ball or also Valedictory Dinner, usually so when the night includes a meal and is in the final year of high school.
In Sweden this kind of event is usually known as Studentbalen. The word "Studentbalen" is in this case a proper noun meaning "The Student Ball", while the word studentbal is a common noun that can refer to any formal dinner and dance at a Swedish university. Studentbalen is usually held during the last weeks before graduating (Swedish: "Ta studenten") after three years in secondary school (Swedish: Gymnasieskola) and can be a quite formal, white tie event though the practice differs greatly between schools.
In Austria the last year in Gymnasium is celebrated with a ball (the so called "Maturaball") usually in January or February. This dance takes place before the exams are written. Normally the ball is pretty formal, so that all the students come either with dress or with a tuxedo or suit. Often the students invite their parents and other relatives to come to the ball with them.
In Ireland, this formal dance is called "The Debutantes' Ball", or informally, "The Debs" (an abbreviation). This is also a formal dance for students who have just graduated from secondary school (high school) and is traditionally held at some stage during September and October, after the students have finished all their exams and have even got their results. The same formal dance is also occasionally known as Grads among students in all-male schools, but who would therefore invite girls from other schools and is, therefore, the same as a Debs. Though "Grads" can also refer to a less formal dance mid-way through the school year.
In the U.S. a "formal" is typically a similar dance that is held by a fraternity or sorority affiliated with a certain college or university. In Australia and Britain, the term "prom" has also come into usage because of the influence of American movies and television.
In Germany students celebrate their graduation from High School or Gymnasium with an Abifeier (from the graduation certificate or Abitur), "Abi Party" or an "Abi Ball" - although most British or American students would fail to observe any of the traditional formality found in their own events. Students are not compelled to wear Tuxedos and the women students are rarely in ball gowns. The event often follows a very rigid running order, with welcome, introductions, an award ceremony for students and then a series of student organised activities that tend to make fun of teachers usually with a joke about their bicycles or an extended hagiography about the favourite teacher. This is followed by the school's own band or bands or even an extended demonstration of all of the artistic outpourings of the students and staff. The event normally ends with a DJ playing music. Alcohol is available at these events since the legal drinking age in Germany is 16 (for beer and wine) and most graduating students are 18 or older.
In Colombia many private schools usually have "proms" as well, in Medellin for example hotel rooms are booked for this purposes and alcohol is usually available.
In South Africa the equivalent is a Matric Dance, taking place during the matriculation (i.e. final) year of high school. In most schools it takes place on the Friday evening that schools close for the spring break before the Matriculation Examinations commence. The tradition is, however, very similar to the American one.
In Malaysia proms are gaining more and more popularity, and being held by more schools, especially in the bigger cities. However, these gatherings are usually fully organised by students only, and the school administration is not involved.
In Pakistan the equivalent is farewell dinner & farewell function that takes place at the end of the college academic year. In farewell function one lady is appointed as "lady of the evening" and one guy is appointed as "Gentleman of the evening".
In Poland the more-less equivalent of prom is called Studniówka, which is happening around 100 days before final high-school exams (from sto dni -- hundred days), which is organized mostly for people who are just about to graduate. People from other years cannot come by themselves, but are often invited by their older friends.
In India the equivalent is a farewell party or farewell gathering. The outgoing students are given a warm send-off by the junior students and staff. All the seniors are felicitated with souvenirs and best outgoing students are given awards.
In Slovakia the closest thing to a prom is Stužková, an occasion when the seniors get together with their parents and teachers to celebrate their upcoming graduation. It takes place in November or December. Each of the students receives a green ribbon with their name on it (thus the name Stužková, i.e. the Ribbon Ball). Many of the students will wear this ribbon on their jackets/shirts for the rest of the year. Stužková typically includes a banquet, skits and songs prepared by students, and, of course, dancing.
In Slovenia the equivalent is Maturantski ples after graduating from high school. Students can bring dates and/or close family to the ball. It is a custom that each student dances the first dance of the night with his mother/her father.
In Turkey the equivalent is called "Graduation Ball". The type and the rules of the organization is completely up to the school board.
In Italy the equivalent is known as "Mak Π 100" because it takes place 100 days before the students' graduation in high school. In military schools it is similar to the American prom, whereas in civil schools it is less formal, it can be held in discos and the students can perform a cabaret show in which they make a parody of their teachers.
In Chile, proms or "fiestas de graduación" (graduation parties) are usually held at convention centers or hotels after the "licenciatura" or graduation from High School, and sometimes after taking the PSU (Chilean University Entrance Exam) in December. Students are expected to dress with evening dresses and tuxedos. They are allowed to go with a date, whether it is their significant other, a friend, or a relative. It usually starts by dancing a waltz with the opposite sex parent, and a dinner. After the dinner, the parents leave, and the dance starts until the next day. Food like hors d'oeuvres and a small breakfast and alcohol drinks are available during the party.
In Finland the equivalent of the prom is called Vanhojen tanssit.
In Egypt most private schools have proms similar to the USA.
Anti-prom is an alternative social gathering, usually held to protest a prom.


prom in Bulgarian: Абитуриентски бал
prom in German: Prom
prom in French: Prom (bal)
prom in Japanese: プロム

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Philharmonic concert, assemblee, assembly, assignation, at home, bal, bal costume, bal masque, ball, band concert, barn dance, brawl, caucus, chamber concert, colloquium, commission, committee, concert, conclave, concourse, congregation, congress, conventicle, convention, convocation, council, country dance, dance, date, diet, eisteddfod, fancy-dress ball, festivity, fete, forgathering, forum, gathering, get-together, hop, housewarming, levee, mask, masked ball, masque, masquerade, masquerade ball, meet, meeting, mixer, musical performance, musical program, panel, party, performance, philharmonic, plenum, pop concert, pops, popular concert, program, program of music, promenade, promenade concert, quorum, rally, reception, recital, record hop, rendezvous, seance, service of music, session, shindig, shindy, sit-in, sitting, soiree, square dance, stag dance, symphony concert, symposium, synod, tea dance, the dansant, turnout
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