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Greek Life

Speak Greek

Do you feel like students in fraternities and sororities are speaking 'Greek'?  What are these "dues" and "bids" and "initiations"? Below are several common terms used among students affiliated with fraternities and sororities to help you better understand our community.

Glossary of Greek Terms


A member of a fraternity or sorority who has been initiated and is currently in college.


An initiated member of a sorority who has received their undergraduate degree.


An initiated member of a fraternity who has received their undergraduate degree.


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.


A formal invitation to join a sorority or fraternity.

Bid Day

The day in which individuals offered bids choose to accept one, such bid and become a new member.  Shake day occurs immediately following the last day of rush.

Big Brother or Sister

An older member assigned to assist a new member in his or her college transition.


A term used within men's fraternities when referring to other members.


Audible sounds used by members of multi-cultural organizations to acknowledge or gain the attention of other members.


An individual colony which comprises a larger, national fraternity or sorority.

Chapter Meeting

A weekly meeting held to discuss sorority or fraternity business.


A new organization that is awaiting official recognition from their national to have a chapter at a campus.


The official pair or triad of colors that represent a specific Greek organization.


Insignia used by sorority and fraternity members. Most Greek organizations reserve the crest for initiated members only. Each crest has hidden, secret meanings behind it. Also known as a coat or arms or shield.


Semester payments to one’s organization.


When an organization is looking to expand and open a chapter at a new school.

Formal Recruitment

A structured period set aside (typically in January) where potential members and chapters participate in a mutual selection process to match potential members with IFC and Panhellenic chapters.


A Greek-lettered organization of men committed to similar ideas that develop the human spirit: leadership, scholarship, service, athletics and brotherhood.

Greek Community

The confluence of individual fraternities and sororities in Sewanee in which Greek members and organizations comprise a greater, non-exclusive community whose value and impact extends for beyond the confines of individual chapters.


Hazing is defined as any form of coercion which is meant to elicit physical or mental compliance on the point of any member of a Greek organization. Hazing is prohibited.


It's a special handshake unique to each organization. Only initiated members will know the handshake. Also known as a Grip.


The formal date in which new members become actives within an establishment.

Interfraternity Council (IFC)

The collegiate governing body of all North-American Interfraternity Conference fraternities.


A prospective member whose parent, sibling, or grandparent is an alumnae/alumni or active of a sorority or fraternity.


The first Greek letter of each Greek word that makes up the name of the fraternity or sorority are often displayed on clothing. For example, Zeta Tau Alpha's letters are ZTA.

Membership Intake

The membership recruitment, educational and induction process that one goes through in order to become an NPHC member.


A party between a sorority and fraternity, or several fraternities and sororities, often involving themes or games.

National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC)

The governing body of historically African-American sororities and fraternities sometimes referred to as the Divine Nine, being derived from the nine organizations that make up the council.

New Member

A woman or man who has accepted a fraternity or sorority bid, but has not been initiated.

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 Education Period

The period of time before initiation when new members learn about their fraternity or sorority.

National Panhellenic Conference

The National Panhellenic Conference is the organization that governs the 26 national women's sororities.


Fund-raising projects sponsored by fraternities or sororities supporting local and inter/national charitable organizations.

Potential New Members

A person participating in recruitment.


The process where sororities and fraternities get new members. Potential new members tour each house, are invited to parties 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. Held each spring.


An event in which a chapter’s traditions are executed and exhibited as part of new member education.


A term used within sororities when referring to other members.


A Greek-lettered organization of women that emphasizes leadership and personal development, banded together for educational, philanthropic, civic and social purposes.