Greek Life


Active: A fully initiated member of a fraternity/sorority.


Badge: A “pin” worn by fully-initiated members of each fraternity or sorority that carries its official insignia.

Bid: An invitation to join a sorority or fraternity.

Big: Nickname for big sister or brother, a mentor assigned to a new member. Many organizations have special names for these pairings.

Brother: An active or alumni member of a fraternity.

Brotherhood: The common term for the bond between members of the same fraternity.


Chant: A call used by members of culturally based organizations or NPHC used to acknowledge or gain the attention of others. Some organizations have more than one chant. To imitate or an attempt to replicate their chant would be a sign of disrespect.

Chapter: An established membership unit of a national or international sorority or fraternity.

Charter: The official document drafted by an Inter/National fraternity or sorority that allows for the creation of a local chapter that is affiliated with a college or university campus.

Class or “New Member Class”: A term used to name new members of a Multicultural Greek Council organization who all joined during the same semester.

Colony: Known as a “trial period” for a new organization that is awaiting official Chapter Status recognition from their national to establish a letter chapter on their campus.

Crest: Insignia used by sorority and fraternity members. Each crest has hidden, secret meanings behind it. Also known as a coat of arms, shield or armorial bearings.

Crossing: Ceremony during which new members of culturally-based and NPHC organizations become active, life-long members of their organization.

Crossing Date/Year: A term for initiating into a culturally based Greek organization or NPHC organization. Usually used to refer to when a member joined their organization – the term and year they joined.


Dues: The monetary costs of membership in a fraternity or sorority. These fees are used to cover the costs of operation, formal events, activities, and other events, depending on the organization.


Founder’s Day: An event celebrated by fraternities and sororities to highlight the founding of their organization and celebrate its history.

Formal Recruitment: A designated recruitment period during which a series of organized events.

Founders: The founding members of a Greek Letter organization.


Hand Signs: Signs that only a member of an organization can "throw up." Most signs have a deep meaning to an organization or ritualistic symbol. To use the sign while not a member of the organization is seen as disrespect.


Intake: A term used by National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) members. A period of time where interest are completing an education process. Members are selected to become new members of an organization. Generally includes an application and an interview process, followed by an educational program done at the local level conducted by both undergraduates and alumni,

Initiation: A ceremony during which new members receive lifelong membership privileges into the organization they have chosen to be a part of.

Interest: A way to refer to someone who is interested in joining a Greek organization.

Informational: A forum for individuals interested in seeking more information about a particular NPHC fraternity or sorority.


Legacy: Each organization has its own definition of a "legacy." It is generally defined as an immediate family member of an initiated member, such as a sister/brother or daughter/son.

Letters: The first Greek letter of each Greek word that makes up the motto of a particular fraternity or sorority; these are generally displayed on clothing and other Greek paraphernalia.

Line: A term used by NPHC organizations to name a group of new members who all joined during the same term, semester, or pledge class. They are the potential new members of the organization. Lines are often given names.

Line name/number: The name given to a prospective/new member that represents them as a person, usually a noun, adjective or acronym. Culturally based organizations and NPHC organizations also assign a line number to their new members (such as ace, duece, tre, etc.)

Little: Short for "Little brother/sister" - a new member who is being mentored by an older member of their organization


National Association of Latino Fraternal Organizations (NALFO): an umbrella council for 16 Latino Greek Letter Organizations established in 1998

National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC): The governing body of the nine traditionally African American fraternities and sororities, also known as the "Divine Nine" or "D9."

Nationals: 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 organizations at all of colleges and universities where their organization recruits members.

New Member: A person who has accepted a bid but is not yet initiated to a sorority or fraternity.

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.


Paraphernalia: Also known as ‘para’ or ‘nalia’. This is clothing and accessories which display the organization’s letters.

Philanthropy: This is a community service project/s held by a fraternity, sorority, or both.

Pin: (2 types) the active pin or badge, a distinctive insignia worn on the chest designating an active member of a particular fraternity. The pledge pin, an insignia used to designate a pledge of a particular fraternity.

Probate: An official public presentation of initiation used by culturally-based and NPHC organizations. The presentation may consist of knowledge learned, skills gained, and values understood. This is a proud moment of historical significance for new members of these organizations. In most cases, this is the first time when newly initiated members of each fraternity/sorority are revealed to the rest of campus.

Potential New Member: A person who is interested in joining a Greek-letter organization, and will participate in rush, intake, or recruitment; often abbreviated to PNM.

Pledge: A person who has accepted a bid but is not yet initiated to a sorority or fraternity. This term is believed to be outdated by some and can be offensive. See also “New Member”

Prophyte or "Old Head:" A term used to refer to an older brother/sister from a culturally based organization.


Recruitment: The process through which sororities and fraternities get new members. Potential New Members tour each house, are invited to different events and choose the new members for their organization (students seeking membership in a fraternity or sorority “rush,” while the Greek organizations “recruit” new members).

Ritual: The traditional rites and ceremonies of a fraternity or sorority; these are almost always private and known only to initiated members of a fraternal organization.

Rush: The process of attending recruitment events with the intent of meeting people and participating in a particular fraternity or sorority (students seeking membership in a fraternity or sorority “rush,” while the Greek organizations “recruit” new members).


Sister: An active member of a sorority.

Sisterhood: The common term for the bond between members of the same sorority.

Step Show: A show often performed by National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations. Also called stepping.

Stroll/Strolling: A dance, normally done in a line of active members that displays pride and knowledge of their organization and its values. Organizations usually have national strolls and local strolls that incorporate a variety of different moves and hand signs that are unique that organization. Emulating or cutting in/through the line is considered a sign of disrespect.

Stepping: Stepping is a tradition where members synchronize their moves so that they are in a sense performing their own dance moves, without music. In stepping the members will clap, stomp with their feet, jump, chant and create their own beat by doing so. Stepping is traditional done by NPHC organization, but multicultural Greek are also known to do it.


Tiki – A large necklace worn with large Greek letters on them. Similar to a lavaliere but much larger and often made out of wood.


Yard: A term used by NPHC groups to indicate the campus. Used in phrases such as “which groups are on the yard,” meaning which groups are presently active on campus.