What does the word "mortarboard" mean — not how do you get it — how did they decide that word makes sense in this context?

Also, I think i just hit the reputation cap for the first time (for what is now yesterday). How long till the badge usually shows up? If I go to my recent activity and click yesterday, I see 200.

Edit: It seems from other threads on meta, that reputation from others accepting your answers doesn't count. Well, that's just poo on my parade...

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    Oxford Dictionary has the answer.
    – user146787
    Feb 10, 2012 at 7:23

2 Answers 2


As Bill said, a mortarboard is the hat that master's students and undergraduates wear to graduation in some parts of the world. There's a lot more information about this on Wikipedia (Mortarboard).

The name mortarboard actually comes from the cap's resemblance to the flat handheld implement used by bricklayers to — what else? — hold mortar. Oddly, that tool is called a "hawk," not a mortarboard. Again, see Wikipedia (Hawk (plasterer's tool)).

I like the "rep cap"/"cap and gown" theory, but I always thought the name came from the fact that you have to be rather learned to hit the rep cap.

To answer your final question, the badge usually shows up fairly quickly, within a day or so. See the big list of badge information for the badge's requirements; it's no longer true that it's based on upvotes only.

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    In practice, you only have to find a subjective question and post an early answer that mentions a popular tool or quote, in order to hit the rep cap...
    – Gnome
    Oct 23, 2010 at 7:53

It's the cap you wear to your graduation. I think it's a play on the phrase "cap and gown," which is the full outfit a graduate traditionally wears.

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    ...in the United States. It's not as common elsewhere.
    – Ether
    Aug 5, 2010 at 0:45
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    ...nor are all the caps mortarboards. My Father recently returned to school to get his Ph.D. Doctoral candidates at his school (in the USA) had the option of a rather fetching tam. Aug 5, 2010 at 0:58
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    We wore them in the UK, at least we wore what they call Mortarboards and I definitely referred to it as one.
    – metdos
    Aug 5, 2010 at 8:49
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    The original mortarboard is a board with a handle underneath. You plop a blob of mortar on it when building a wall. The hats are named after them because they have a flat top. At my Canadian graduations we wore hoods, not hats of any kind. Not that the hoods were really hoods, but whatever. Oct 21, 2010 at 20:23

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