(Please note this is not an exhaustive list and is compiled from multiple sources. Not all terms are used by all groups/campuses.)
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Advisor – An alumnus or alumna member who serves as a resource for the active chapter and liaison between the alums and collegians.
Advisory Board – Members of an alumni chapter that advises the chapter.
Affiliate – To join with an organization. Colonies petition national organizations to affiliate with them. A member who switches schools may also affiliate with the chapter at his/her new school.
Alumni – Members of a fraternity who have graduated. (Singular is alumnus)
Alumnae – Members of a sorority who have graduated. (Singular is alumna)
Alum – abbreviation for alumnus, alumna, alumni or alumnae.
Anchor – The last person of the line.
Badge – Also known as a pin, it is an item of jewelry given to members upon initiation. The badge is to be worn at all official functions, and upon a members death, it should be returned to the sorority or fraternity headquarters. The badge must be worn with business-like attire, usually over the heart and above all other pins.
Bid – An invitation to join an IFC fraternity or NPC sorority. They are given out during formal recruitment (on Bid Day for sororities, at any time before the end of formal recruitment for fraternities). The NPHC and NALFO/NMGC process does not include bids.
Bid Day – The last day of recruitment in which potential new members receive formal invitations to join a sorority.
Bid Matching – a system for matching the choice of the potential member with the choice of the chapter.
Big – Nickname for big brother or sister, a mentor assigned to a new member. Many organizations have special names for these pairings.
Brand – Organizational symbol(s) burned into members, usually on the arms or chest. Relates to scarification practiced by African tribes. Branding is a voluntary process, not a requirement for membership.
Brother – Term that fraternity members call each other.
Bullhorn – The first person of the line.
Call/Chant – A yell used mostly by NPHC organizations (although some NIC, NPC, NALFO, NMGC and local orgs have calls as well). Used to identify and greet brothers and sisters. Emulating a call/chant is a sign of disrespect.
Chapter – A branch of a national sorority, established at a campus. Each will have their own name, usually designated by Greek letters.
Chapter Advisor – An alumnus who serves as a mentor to the chapter membership and advises officers on all chapter operations.
Chapter House – A house on campus where members of the organization reside. Not all campuses have chapter houses. Some have designated rooms given to each fraternity or sorority called Chapter Rooms, or a special residence hall where each group gets a floor.
Chapter Meeting – A meeting held to discuss fraternity or sorority business.
Charter – Permission from the national organization to have a chapter.
College Panhellenic (CPH) – College Panhellenic associations are established on campuses where there are at least two NPC member group chapters. Sometimes referred to as CPC (College Panhellenic Council/Conference).
Collegian/Collegiate – An initiated member of a fraternity or sorority currently in college. Formerly/also known as active.
Colony – A new organization that is awaiting official recognition from their national to have a chapter on a campus.
Colors – The official pair or triad of colors that represent a specific Greek organization.
Continuous Open Bidding – Also known as COB. If a sorority does not reach the allowable membership total during formal recruitment or if they do not get quota, they may hold an informal recruitment and offer bids to potential new members.
Crest – Insignia used by fraternity or sorority members. Most Greek organizations reserve the crest for initiated members only. Each crest has hidden, secret meanings behind it. Also known as a coat of arms or shield.
Crossed – The date on which an associate member crossed into a fraternity or sorority to become an active member. Usually, a term used in culturally-centered Greek organizations.
Cross Pledging – Cross pledging is defined as allowing members from another organization (fraternity and/or sorority) to view, question, pledge, come into physical contact, etc. with potential new members from your organization. Generally not permitted.
Cut – When a sorority does not invite a woman back to participate in new member activities, or the potential new member does not go back to a house she was invited to.
Dean of Pledges (DP) – Person who oversees the membership intake process.
Depledge/Drop – The process where a new member elects or is asked to relinquish membership during their process/initiation period. Those who depledge an NPC sorority may not begin a process with another sorority for one full calendar year.
Deferred Recruitment – Recruitment which starts after the beginning of the school year.
Dirty Rushing – When one organization will attempt to influence a potential new member through gifts, bad mouthing other organizations, etc.
“Divine Nine” – A nickname for the nine historically African American Greek organizations on the National Pan-Hellenic Council.
Dry – A fraternity or sorority which does not permit alcohol on their house premises, and in some cases, does not allow the organization to host a party involving alcohol. Some fraternities are going dry at the national level, and all sororities have different levels of “dry”. For example, one may allow the sorority to attend a function hosted by a non-dry fraternity, while another sorority may not.
Dry Rush – A fraternity rush event with no alcohol. All sorority recruitment events are dry, so this term only applies to fraternities.
Dues – Charge for joining a fraternity or sorority. Covers costs of national and local operations, formal events, activities and other events. The amount varies based on the organization.
Expansion – When an organization is looking to expand and open a chapter at a new school.
Financial – Term used to refer to an active member. (i.e. a dues-paying member)
Formal Recruitment – See Recruitment.
Founders Day – An event celebrated by fraternities and sororities to highlight the founding of their organization and celebrate its history. It’s not necessarily held on the day the organization was founded.
Frat – A nickname for a fraternity or a fraternity brother. IFC members generally find this to be offensive; however, NPHC fraternities use it as a mark of respect for each other.
Frater – A term used to identify members of the same fraternity; sometimes used to refer to any fraternity man of an NPHC organization.
Fraternity – A group of people brought together because of mutual interests. Generally thought of as a group of men, but also refers to co-ed organizations and many sororities are officially fraternities.
Greek – Not the nationality. Greek in this sense means a member of a fraternity or sorority.
Greek Week – An organized week of activities to unite all organizations/councils in friendly competition.
Greenbook – (Manual of Information) the informal name for the handbook containing procedural, instructional and practical information about National Panhellenic Conference (NPC), college and alumnae Panhellenics. The handbook has green covers.
Greeting – Greetings are defined as formalized ways in which a potential new member is required to address a current member of the organization in which skits, songs, prose, etc. are incorporated.
Handshake – It’s a special handshake unique to each organization. Only initiated members will know the handshake. Also known as a ‘grip’.
Hazing – Any act performed by a member of any organization that is likely to cause harm or danger, cause public embarrassment or shame, compromise a person’s dignity, cause the person to be the object of ridicule, cause psychological harm, or is illegal. Hazing is against the law in all states and is against the principles of all fraternities and sororities.
Hold Over – Someone who is a new member who for some reason, can’t be initiated with their new member class and is “held over” until the next initiation occurs. Often happens because of finances, personal reasons, grades, etc.
Hot Boxing – Members of Greek organizations putting pressure on potential members to join.
House – A physical facility usually used to hold meetings and other events. Also a synonym for an organization or the word ‘chapter’.
House Corporation – The entity that holds the title to property that a chapter lives or meets in. This is usually an alumni group like an advisory board.
House Director/House Mom/House Manager – A person hired to live in the chapter house and supervise the chapter members.
IFC – Stands for Interfraternity Council, and is the governing body of the NIC fraternities, on some campuses local fraternities are housed under the IFC.
Inactive Member – A member who has elected to become inactive in fraternity or sorority life for various reasons. They have no say or participation in chapter/organization activities.
Independent/GDI – Term for a student that is not a member of a Greek organization.
Informational – Recruitment event for culturally based groups.
In-House – A member that lives in the house (if an organization has one).
In-House Legacy – A potential new member who has a sibling who is currently a collegian in the organization. For instance, if you are going through recruitment, and your biological sister is an active member at that school, you are an in-house legacy to that organization. If your sister has already graduated and left the school, you are considered to be a regular legacy.
Initiate – A person who has recently learned the ritual of a fraternity or sorority and is a full member.
Initiation – A ceremony where a pledge/prospective new member becomes a full member of the organization. Initiation ceremonies are private and different for all organizations.
Intake – Term for the process by which NPHC members are selected to become new members of an organization. Much more secretive than recruitment or rush, but generally includes an application and an interview process, followed by an educational program done at the local level conducted by both undergraduates and alumni, then an initiation (generally known as “crossing”).
Intentional Single/Double Preference (ISP or IDP) – When a prospective member only puts down one/two choice(s) on her preference card. This sometimes lessens the chances of her getting a bid, and isn’t recommended. Formerly called suiciding, but was changed to ISP/IDP because of the negative implications of the term.
Interest Group – A group of individuals on campus in the first stage of the process leading to installation as a chapter of a Greek-letter organization.
Jewel – A founder of an NPHC organization.
Lavaliere – A necklace with the sorority letters, often worn by members. Lavaliering is a process where a fraternity member would give his lavaliere to his girlfriend, as a sign of a serious relationship. Depending on the campus, this can be equal to “pinning”.
Legacy – The son, daughter, brother or sister of an organization’s member. Some organizations also include grandchildren or stepchildren. Sorority rules sometimes dictate she cannot be cut from the first round of parties, but in no way are legacies guaranteed a bid from the organization they are a legacy to.
Letters – The first Greek letter of each Greek word that makes up the name of the fraternity or sorority are often displayed on clothing. Some organizations don’t allow new members to wear letters (only the name spelled out), while others do.
Little/Lil – Nickname for a Big’s new member that they mentor.
Line – An NPHC term somewhat equal to a pledge/new member class. They are the potential new members of the organization. Lines are often given names.
Live In – Used to identify members that live in the chapter house.
Local– An organization that is not part of an incorporated Greek organization, typically only found on one campus.
Marching – Marching is defined as but is not limited to potential new members linked arm in arm, stepping or stomping loudly in unison, dipping and/or chanting/singing.
Mascot – A symbol, usually an animal, chosen to represent a Greek letter organization.
Mismatch – When a potential new member’s name fails to match any of her sorority preferences.
Mixer/Exchange/Social – A party between a fraternity and sorority, or several fraternities and sororities, often involving themes or games.
NALFO – the National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations, the umbrella council for Latino Greek Letter organizations.
NAPA – National Asian Pacific Islander American Panhellenic Association, an association of nine (9) member Asian Interest fraternities and sororities.
National – A fraternity or sorority’s national headquarters. Usually erroneously called “national”, as most organizations are international, having chapters outside of the U.S.
Neophyte – New member of Greek Letter organization; also called a ‘Neo’. This term is generally used by NPHC, NALFO, and NMGC organizations.
New Member – After receiving and accepting a bid, the person becomes a new member. Formerly called a pledge, sometimes called Associate Member.
New Member Pin – A distinctive badge worn on the chest designating a new member of a particular fraternity or sorority for the period of time between bid acceptance and initiation. Most organizations require the new member to return the new member pin at initiation in exchange for their member pin.
New Member Class – The group of new members that will be going through the New Member Program and Initiation together. Formerly called a pledge class, this term is still used among the fraternities.
New Member Educator – The liaison between the new members and the chapter, they are responsible for implementing and monitoring the new member program and preparing the new members for initiation.
New Member Program – The time period where the new member learns about their new fraternity or sorority before initiation. Lasts from bid day until initiation. Formerly called pledge period (and still called this in fraternities).
NIC – North-American Interfraternity Conference is the trade association representing 75 International and National Men’s Fraternities.
NMGC – the National Multicultural Greek Council, the umbrella council for Multicultural Greek Organizations
No Frills – Formal recruitment where costumes, elaborate food, skits, etc. are forbidden at all or most rounds. Designed to let sororities recruit on a level playing field, so a sorority with more funding cannot ‘out decorate’ a sorority with a smaller budget. Also used to prevent over-spending on recruitment, which is usually a large portion of a sorority budget.
NPC – The National Panhellenic Conference is the organization that governs the 26 national women’s sororities.
NPHC – The National Pan-Hellenic Council, the governing body of the nine historically African American fraternities and sororities, also known as the Divine Nine.
Number – The number you are assigned based on the chronological order you are in on your initiation line (often members of other culturally based organizations identify or relate to one another by distinguishing that they are the “same” number).
On the Yard – an NPHC phrase meaning that a chapter is currently chartered on campus
Open Motto – A short phrase that describes the purpose or outlook of a fraternity or sorority, and is available for all to read. Many organizations also have a Creed or Purpose in addition to an Open Motto, as well as a motto that is only for initiated members.
Order of Omega – An honor society for Greek members who demonstrate outstanding leadership and academic achievement.
Paraphernalia – Also known as ‘para’ or ‘nalia’. This is clothing and accessories which display the organization’s letters.
Panhellenic – “All Greek”
Panhellenic Council/PC – The governing body of the sororities of a particular campus.
Paper Members – Generally refers to NPHC members who join without going through a new member education process.
Pearl – A founder of an NPHC organization.
Perp – A perpetrator, someone who pretends to be a member of a fraternity or sorority, by wearing the letters, claiming they’re a collegian etc. They will, and always do, get found out.
Philanthropy – A charity or fundraiser that the fraternity or sorority supports. Can be national, local or both.
Pin – The active pin is worn on the chest designating an initiated member of a certain chapter. A new member pin is similar and is used to designate a new member/potential new member of a chapter.
Pinning – Designates the start of a new member process. The new member wears a fraternity/sorority pin and at the moment of pinning, officially becomes a new member. Can also be a term for a fraternity member giving his pin or a sweetheart pin to his girlfriend, often a precursor to an engagement.
Pledge – See New Member
Pledge Mom/Dad (PM/PD) – Person who oversees the membership intake process.
Potential New Member – A person who is interested in joining a Greek letter organization, and will participate in rush, intake or recruitment. Formerly called rushees by sororities, the term is still used by fraternities. Also abbreviated to PNM.
Preference – The final socials held by sororities during Recruitment. They are fancier than the previous socials and usually include a ritual that potential new members can participate in. Also known as ‘Pref’, or ‘Final Dinners’.
Preference Cards – Potential new members sign this after the preference socials, indicating, in order, which sororities of the ones whose parties they attended they liked the most. These cards, along with the sororities lists of members they would like, are used to match the PNM’s and sororities with one another in a mutually selective process.
Probate/Coming Out Show – A performance by newly inducted or soon to be inducted members. A way for
organizations to showcase the newest members of the organization. These shows are generally done by NPHC, NALFO and NMGC organizations
Prophyte – A term used to describe an older member of an NPHC, NALFO or NMGC organization that has inducted new members.
Quota – A set number of new members a sorority can extend bids to. Quota is determined by taking the total number of potential new members at Preference (sometimes from the second round of invitational parties, depending on the school), and dividing by the number of sororities. For example, if there are five sororities on campus, and 100 girls on preference night, each sorority can take a maximum of 20 new members.
Quota Additions – Women who are matched to their preference for sororities if they have maximized their choices throughout the formal sorority recruitment process. The total number of additions for a sorority cannot exceed 5% of quota.
Recolonize/Recharter – Process where a fraternity or a sorority that was previously on campus receives another charter for the same campus. Recolonization/Rechartment can happen because a chapter died out due to low numbers, or had their charter revoked.
Ritual – A secret ceremony of a Greek organization. Also, the formal document that contains the secret principles and ideals upon which the organization was founded. Ritual elements are sacred to each fraternity and sorority and have been handed down through generations. Only initiated members may be privy to rituals.
Rec – A recommendation, a letter sent by an alumnus/alumna in good standing to the collegiate chapter where a PNM will be going through recruitment. The letter introduces the PNM to the chapter. Recs are perceived to be very important at large Southern schools, but they are rarely heard of in other areas of the country, like the Pacific Northwest. Recommendations can be thought of as extra credit in sorority recruitment – they are not required, but they won’t hurt you if you have them. Also known as a Reference.
Recruitment – The process where fraternities and sororities get new members. Potential new members tour each house, are invited to socials and choose the new members of their organization. The old term is rush, which is still used by the fraternities. The formal name is Formal Recruitment. This is traditional for IFC and NPC organizations. NPHC, NALFO and NMGC practices differ.
Recruitment Counselor – A sorority member who leads a recruitment group (this is the practice of NPC). During
recruitment, they disaffiliate from their sorority so that they will not bias the potential new members. Formerly known as Rho Chi’s, the new official term is Sigma Rho Chi (Sorority Recruitment Counselor). Many campuses have their own term, such as Pi Chi (Panhellenic Counselor), Rho Gamma (Recruitment Guide), Rho Alpha (Recruitment Advisor), Gamma Chi (Greek Counselor), Greek Life Guide, Alpha Chi, Pi Rho Chi, etc.
Rush – See Recruitment. Rush is an outdated word that was replaced in 1999 by recruitment. Rush referred to the practice of fraternities “rushing” to the train station to meet the newest members of the freshman class of a college or university and pinning their fraternity colors on the freshmen to identify them as a potential member of that fraternity.
Sands – An NPHC term for members of your new member class or Greeks who became members the same semester. Comes from the phrase “cross the burning sands” which means to cross over (become initiated) into full membership.
Ship – Individuals who are members of the same intake class. (Line)
Sign – A unique display expressed by hand symbols, typically by NPHC organizations. Emulating the sign is a sign of disrespect.
Silence/ Strict Silence – The point from which recruitment starts until it ends, where no sisters in houses and PNM are allowed to speak about the details of recruitment.
Sister – Term that sorority members call each other.
Smoker – A formal meeting held by the organization for potential new members that details the application process and rules of the organization; generally geared to potential new members who have a serious interest.
Snap bid – A bid given to a PNM who was not placed during bid matching. The PNM would be on the sorority’s list, but that PNM did not list the sorority on her bid card. Many schools will not allow someone who suicides to receive a snap bid. Some schools will allow a person who had to drop out of recruitment to receive a snap bid.
Social Probation – Potential new members not being able to socialize and or speak with people outside of the organization and/or not being able to attend social events such as parties, programs, etc.
Soror – Means sister, this is a term used by NPHC sorority members to acknowledge one another. Rarely used among NPC sororities.
Sorority – A Greek organization for women. Many of the 26 NPC sororities are actually fraternities, as many were created before the word sorority was coined. Despite this, most will call themselves sororities.
Step Show – A show performed by NPHC, NALFO and NMGC organizations (as well as other organizations) which include a combination of stepping and strolling, among other activities.
Stepping – is a form of percussive dance in which the participant’s entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps and handclaps.
Stroll(ing) – Also known as ‘party walk(ing)’ An energetic, synchronized dance. Typically, NPHC Organizational members move together in a line expressing pride for their organization. In this line, members may express their pride through use of their organization’s call, sign or historical information, ritual/custom dances, etc. All of this is done through movements that are unique to a particular organization. Emulating or cutting in/through the line is considered a sign of disrespect.
Suiciding – See Intentional Single Preference.
Surfacing – The first public appearance of a line. More widely used post-1990 by Latino organizations that maintain an aboveground new member process.
Sweetheart – Sorority member or other woman chosen to serve as a sweetheart of a fraternity, usually chosen because of work she’s done with the fraternity. With the exception of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc, sweetheart organizations have been banned for NPHC organizations since 1990.
Tail – The last person of the line.
Tiki – A large necklace worn with large Greek letters on them. Similar to a lavaliere but much larger and often made out of wood.
Total/Ceiling – The maximum number of members a sorority can have. Sororities can only exceed total during formal recruitment, if for example, taking new members would put them at 180 members and total is 140. If a sorority has obtained quota during recruitment and is still below total, that sorority may continue to ask new members to join.
Underground– A student that participates with the chapter as a member but has not been eligible to join or on the roster.
Uniform – an identifying outfit or style of dress worn by the members/potential new members of a given organization.