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Alteration of tripus, as though with a Greek ending. For the examination: the word is supposed to refer to the three-legged stool formerly used at the examinations for these honours, though some derive it from the three brackets formerly printed on the back of the paper.

The etymon of tripus is the Ancient Greek τρίπους (trípous, triple-footed), (from τρι- (tri-, three) and πούς (poús, foot)).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈtɹaɪpɒs/
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tripos (plural triposes)

  1. (obsolete) A three-legged structure; a tripod.
    • 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970:
      , New York Review of Books, 2001, p.73:
      Thales sent the golden tripos, which the fishermen found and the oracle commanded to be “given to the wisest”, to Bias, Bias to Solon, etc.
    • 1697 [19 BC], Dryden, John, The Third Book of the Æneis, translation of Aeneid by Virgil, lines 122–124; republished in The Works of John Dryden, volume 5, University of California Press, 1988, →ISBN, page 421:
      Scarce had I said, He shook the holy Ground: / The Lawrels, and the lofty Hills around: / And from the Tripos rush'd a bellowing sound.
  2. (Cambridge University) Any of the final examinations for a BA honours degree.
    • 1891, Lehmann, Rudolph Chambers, Harry Fludyer at Cambridge, page 9:
      I'm seriously thinking of chucking my tripos and taking up the History Special.
    • 1907, E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey, Part I, I [Uniform ed., p. 20]:
      It's time you thought. The Tripos is the beginning of life, not the end. In less than two years you will have got your B.A. What are you going to do with it?
  3. (Cambridge University) The list of successful candidates in such an examination.