Greek Glossary

Within the community of sororities and fraternities (Greek life), there are some words that are commonly used which can be hard to understand. Here is an abridged glossary of some terms that you may hear when discussing Greek life and Greek affairs.

An undergraduate member who currently pays dues and participates in chapter events

A member who has graduated. Alumnus is the masculine, alumna the feminine.
The plurals of alumnus and alumna, respectively. When both men and women are meant, alumni is the term most often used, although alumna is also appropriate (it’s the Latin neuter plural).
The symbol worn by an initiated member of a Greek organization. See also Pin.
A formal invitation to join a Greek organization.
Big Brother/ Sister
An initiated member of an organization paired with an uninitiated member to help them through the member education period. Often referred to as a “Big”.
A sound used by members of individual NPHC or MGC organizations to acknowledge members of their own organization.
The smallest self-supporting unit of a Greek organization. Chapters may be part of a national organization, or may exist on their own. See also National, Local.
Documentation that an individual chapter is recognized and operated according to the national fraternity/sorority.
A group petitioning to form a new chapter.
Crest/ Shield/ Coat Of Arms
Most organizations have one of the three to symbolize what they hold in high esteem and to enforce the bond of sisterhood/brotherhood as a new family.
Term used by some NPHC and MGC organizations for when an individual becomes an official member of the organization. The actual date of initiation into a cultural greek organization. The term is used to represent the symbolic “crossing of the burning sands”.
Alcohol free.
Membership fees, typically paid on a by semester basis.
Founder’s Day
Day on which the organization was founded. Like the sorority or fraternity’s birthday.
Greek Letter Organization.
A member of a fraternity or sorority.
Hand Sign
Sign made using one’s hands to acknowledge the presence of one’s sorority sister or fraternity brother. Can also be used to show pride for one’s organization.
Mental or physical harm done to a new member of an organization.
Interfraternity Council. The governing body of men’s fraternities.
An individual is still a member of the organization, but is denoted as “inactive” to designate that they have no longer participate in the day-to-day activities of the fraternity or sorority.
A ritual that a fraternity or sorority holds in order to induct their “pledges” (also called associates or new members) into the organization. This also is a secret activity and is unique to each fraternity or sorority.
Intake/ Recruitment
The membership recruitment and induction process of new members who are interested in joining the organization. The educational process that one goes through in order to become a member.
Interest Group
Group of individuals who are interested in pursuing the pleding process, but have no affiliation with the organization itself and have not yet received a bid.
A pendant with a fraternity or sorority’s Greek letters on it. May be given from a fraternity member to a girl, signifying that he places her before his letters.
Someone whose mother, father, brother, sister, etc., belonged to a particular Greek organization.
The greek letters associated with a fraternity or sorority. The meaning of these letters are usually secret but are sometimes public.
The members of a NPHC, and sometimes MGC, new member class.

Line Jacket
Jacket, typically worn by members of NPHC and MGC organizations that contains letters, crest, and nickname as well as any additional artwork the member may choose to add.
Multicultural/Minority/Diversified Greek Council. Typically sororities and fraternities with roots to a specific culture or multiculturalism in general.
Fraternity and Sorority members often refer to their national/international headquarters or offices as “Nationals”. These offices are responsible for making policies for the individual chapters at different colleges and universities.
A way some fraternities and sororities express members that are past the pledging process but are not full active members, other Fraternities or Sororities may have a different name for this status.
North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC)
A group comprised from each of the 72 national men’s fraternities whose purpose is to enrich the fraternity experience through advocacy, collaboration and education.
National Pan Hellenic Council (NPHC)
The representative governing body for the nine traditionally African American fraternities and sororities.
National Panhellenic Council (NPC)
A conference body composed of 26 national women’s fraternities, each of which is autonomous as a social, Greek-Letter society of college women, undergraduates and alumnae.
This is a community service project held by a fraternity or sorority or both. May be a national service project or specific to individual chapters and colonies.
the use of this term varies from group to group. It can mean the same thing as a badge. It can also mean a symbol worn by a new member until their initiation.
Pledge Class
The group of men or women of each individual organization who go through the pledging process together in hopes of becoming full members.
Potential New Member/ New Member/ Associate Member/ Pledge
Someone who has accepted a bid to join a Greek organization, but has not yet been initiated.
Official public display of initiation in the form of a step.
A neophyte becomes a prophyte when he/she has participated in the initiation of new members.
Public Pledging
Pledging process in which members of the university community are aware of who is pledging what organization. Typically NPC and IFC organizations follow this model.
The sacred ceremonies practiced by every chapter of a Greek letter organization. Generally secret.
A series of events offering members and potential members the opportunity to get to know each other.Rush- an older term for recruitment that is no longer used. Replaced with Recruitment.
Secret Pledging
Pledging process in which the identity and number of individuals undergoing an organization’s pledging process is secret and unknown to the University community. NPHC and MGC organizations typically follow this model.
An event that is held between a hosting fraternity (or sometimes two fraternities) and a sorority, (or sometimes two sororities). Typically these events have a theme.
A series of complex, synchronous and precise rhythmic body movements performed to the tune of stomps, songs or chants created by organization members.
A line dance done by members of NPHC and MGC organizations.
Members of different organizations who all became members of their respective organizations during the Same Year AND Semester.