Greek Terms

Are you feeling a little lost in this sea of new words? Don’t worry, we did too at first.  We’ve got a list of Greek words on this page to help you better understand the Greek world.  Don’t see something?  Let us know!

Active/ Collegiate Member: Someone who has completed their new member/ pledge period and has been initiated into the sorority or fraternity.  Many members refer to them as “actives”, but collegiate member is preferable because new members and alumni are also active within the organization.

Advisor: An alumna/ alumni member of a sorority or fraternity that serves as a mentor to a collegiate chapter officer.

Alumna: a female graduate

Alumnae: the plural of alumna

Alumni: the plural of alumnus

Alumnus: a male graduate

Badge: The pin of an initiated member.

Bid: An official invitation from a chapter to become a new member

Bid Day: The final day of recruitment when bids are given out.

Big: Each new member is given a “big” sister that has been a mentor to her throughout her new member period.  The new member is called a little. This bond remains even after the new member has initiated.  Fraternities also have big brothers.

Brother: Fraternity brothers are male members in the same fraternity chapter.

Chapter: Each national sorority and fraternity has individual chapters of their organization at different colleges and universities. Also, some groups refer to their weekly meeting as “chapter”.

Colony: a newly formed sorority/fraternity organization on campus that has yet to receive their charter recognizing them as a chapter. Colonies have to fulfill requirements set by the college and their national organization before becoming a chapter.

Date Party: Like formal, but typically more casual. Most sororities do date party one semester and formal the other.

Dues: Fees paid to the organization you are affiliated with. Dues must be paid to remain in “good standing” with your chapter.

E-Board: Executive Board, also referred to in some sororities as Executive Council, which includes the elected executive officers of the chapter (i.e. President, Vice Presidents, Secretary, etc).

Greek Officer Organizational Chart

Formal: Like prom, only better. Typically every sorority/fraternity hosts a formal once a year where each member is allowed one date, they are often themed, awards are given and fraternity formals are often out of town.

Founders: The founding sisters or brothers of the national sorority or fraternity.

Fraternity Sweetheart/ Dream Girl: A female who is elected by the members of a fraternity for her dedication and contributions to the success of the chapter over the previous year. She is usually permitted to wear the fraternity letters.

GDI: God Damn Independent; refers to a college student not in a fraternity or sorority. This term is used in a derogatory way in some colleges, but used proudly by the non-greeks themselves in other colleges.

Good Standing: A sorority or fraternity member who has fulfilled all membership obligations, such as paying their dues, maintaining the required GPA, etc.

Greek Alphabet:

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Greek Week: A week where all of the greek organizations on campus come together for activities and friendly competitions.

House: Many schools have houses dedicated to each greek organization. In the literal term, this would be where they live. Some schools also refer to the entire organization as a house, for example “what house are you from” meaning “what sorority/ fraternity are you in”?

House Mom: Officially titled House Director, which refers to a person hired to manage the sorority house and supervise the home operations.

Infraction: When a sorority or a sorority member breaks a recruitment rule set forth by the Panhellenic council at her school.

Initiation: Formal admittance into the sorority/fraternity.  The new members participate in a ceremony that marks formal admittance into the sorority/fraternity. The initiation ceremony is secret and rooted in history.

Lavaliere: necklace bearing the letters of a fraternity/sorority.

Lavaliering: When a fraternity man gives his letters to his girlfriend, which indicates a romantic commitment. The seriousness of this act varies from campus to campus and often ‘permits’ the woman to wear the fraternity letters.

Legacy: A student whose family member (typically brother/sister, mom/dad, grandmother/grandfather but can also include aunt/uncle) is a member of a particular sorority or fraternity. The student is given special membership consideration but not guaranteed a bid.

Letters: The greek letters of your sorority or fraternity name.

Little: Each new member is given a “big” sister that has been a mentor to her throughout her new member period.  The new member is called a little.  This bond remains even after the new member has initiated.  Fraternities also have big/ little brothers.

Member Information Form: Some sororities call this a Recruitment Information Form, others may call it a letter of recommendation. This is a short form an alumna or collegiate member of a sorority can fill out to recommend a PNM into their sorority.  For more information check out our blog about recommendation letters.

National Panhellenic Conference: The NPC website describes themselves as, “The National Panhellenic Conference will be the premier advocacy and support organization for its members, member groups, college and alumnae panhellenics and a proponent of women’s fraternity membership.”  See our NPC Sororities page for more details.

Nationals: Every chapter is a member of a national organization which sets policies for the entire sorority or fraternity.

New Member: This is used for sororities in place of “pledge”. This term refers to the women that have accepted a bid to a particular sorority chapter but are not yet initiated.

New Member Educator: This is an initiated member of the sorority/ fraternity who will serve as the new member class’ “teacher” of the chapter. She or he will be their guide throughout their new member period.

New Member Period: The time between pledging and initiation where the new member learns about the sorority before becoming a collegiate member. It is typically 8-10 weeks long.

Paddle: This is seen as a gift in the Greek world. It is often given from chapter to chapter as a thank you or an honor. It is also given from littles to bigs.

Philanthropy: Put simply, community service. Typically each sorority has a nationally and/or locally recognized non-profit agency that they donate time and money to; they refer to this as “their philanthropy”.

Pledge: Refers to the men that have accepted a bid to a particular fraternity chapter but are not yet initiated.

Pledge/New Member Pin: the pin of a pledge/new member, which indicates their commitment to the organization from the time of pledging until initiation. Some fraternities require their pledges wear this pin at all times during this period.

Pledging Ceremony:  This is the ceremony to recognize the official commitment to become a new member of the sorority or fraternity.

PNM: Potential New Member.  It refers to all incoming women going through the recruitment process before they accept a sorority bid.

Preference Party (Pref): The last party of formal sorority recruitment.  This is typically more serious than the previous nights, and it is a glimpse into the ritual of the sorority.  This is the last party before PNM’s and chapters make their final decisions about membership.

Probation: A member of a sorority or fraternity is put on probation if they have not fulfilled part of their membership, such as GPA requirement, financial obligations, or social standards. Typically members on probation cannot vote in chapter elections while on probation among other restrictions.

Quota: the maximum number each sorority can pledge during formal recruitment. This number is determined by the Panhellenic council at each school and is based on many different factors.

Recruitment (formal recruitment): The official process for new members to join a sorority. It is a mutual selection process where the PNM’s and chapter chose based on their perfect fit. Some schools’ recruitment period lasts a week, while others only a weekend.

Recruitment Counselor (Rho Chi/ Gamma Chi): A collegiate sorority member who disaffiliates from their individual chapter to help PNMs with an unbiased perspective through recruitment.

Recruitment Parties: The different rounds of formal recruitment.  Each sorority chapter throws their own “party” for PNM’s to attend.

Ritual: Symbolic gestures or ceremonies, often kept secret, preformed by only the members of the given sorority or fraternity.

Rush (formal rush): The official process of new members joining a fraternity. It is a mutual selection process where the PNM’s and chapter chose based on their perfect fit.

Sister: Sorority sisters are female members in the same sorority.

Social/Mixer: When two organizations, usually a sorority and fraternity, but can also be two sororities or two fraternities, get together to do a planned activity.

Sorority man/ Frat man: A male who is elected by the members of a sorority for his dedication and contributions to the success of the chapter over the previous year. He is usually permitted to wear the sorority letters.

Stitched Letter: Greek letters that are actually sewn on a shirt or bag. Some chapters have rules about which point in their membership period you are allowed to wear stitched letters. For example, in some chapters you have to be an initiated member to wear the stitched letters.

Strict Silence: This is a period when sorority members are not allowed to talk to PNM’s. It usually starts when recruitment begins and lasts until bid day.

Suicide: This is a slang word to describe, when a PNM will only accept a bid from one chapter of their choice, and refuses to rank any other chapter on their list during recruitment. *Many people prefer the official recruitment lingo: ISP (Intentional Single Preference) because the word suicide has negative connotation.

Twiddle: Twin littles. When a big has two littles, the two littles are called twiddles.