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a person who has been accorded a state or international prize or has won a competition in the arts.
The term “laureate” originated in ancient Greece, where the winners of various competitions were rewarded with wreaths of honor made of laurel branches. The same custom existed in ancient Rome. In the Middle Ages, the term “laureate” was used with the same meaning in many Western European countries— for example, the Italian poet Petrarch was accorded the title in 1341 by the Roman Senate and the University of Paris. The custom of rewarding winners with a laurel wreath still exists.
In the USSR, the title of laureate is conferred on recipients of the Lenin Prize, the State Prize of the USSR, or the state prize of a Union republic and on winners of all-Union or republic competitions among musicians, actors, writers, or athletes.