Greek Terms and Common Phrases at MSU
People are often skeptical of what they don’t fully understand. In order to demystify some of the “Greek World,” here is a quick lesson on some of the jargon you’ll hear around campus. While some of what you’ll read below is specific to certain organizations, it should help you understand what others are saying when they use these words or phrases.
Active: A fully initiated member of a fraternity/sorority.
Alumna: A member of a women’s fraternal organization who is no longer an undergraduate. Plural: Alumnae.
Alumnus: A member of a men’s fraternal organization who is no longer an undergraduate. Plural: Alumni.
Associate Member: A person who has accepted a bid but is not yet initiated into a sorority or fraternity. See also “New Member”
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 member of a fraternity.
Brotherhood: The common term for the bond between members of the same fraternity.
Call: A yell used mostly by NPHC organizations (although some NIC, NPC and local organizations have calls as well). Used to identify and greet brothers and sisters.
Chapter: A membership unit of a national or international sorority or fraternity
Chapter House: Chapter houses are what many fraternity or sorority houses are commonly referred to. All of the Greek chapter houses in East Lansing are owned and operated by private corporations or organizations.
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 Panhellenic Council or Interfraternity Council organization who all joined during the same semester.
Colony: A new organization that is awaiting official recognition from their national to have a chapter at a campus.
Crest: 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.
Crossing: Ceremony during which new members of the IGC and NPHC Greek organizations become active, life-long members of their organization.
Depledge: A student who withdraws from a chapter after accepting a bid, but before the student is initiated by a chapter.
Dry: A fraternity which does not permit alcohol on their house premises, and in very rare 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.
Dues: The monetary costs of membership in a fraternity or sorority. These fees are used to cover the costs of operation, formal events, social activities, and other events, depending on the organization.
Expansion: When an organization is looking to expand and open a chapter at a new school.
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.
Fraternity: The name applied to Greek organizations including both men’s and women’s organizations; at MSU it is most commonly applied to men’s groups. There are several types of fraternities at MSU, including social fraternities, service fraternities, professional fraternities, and honorary fraternities. While the Department of Student Life works to register all of these organizations, we only advise the governing bodies of the social fraternities.
Formal Recruitment: A designated recruitment period during which a series of organized events are held by each NPC sorority. At MSU, this is organized and implemented by the Panhellenic Council.
Greeks: Members of a fraternity or sorority. The term "Greek" is used because a majority of fraternities and sororities use Greek letters to distinguish themselves.
Hazing: (As defined by the Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils) Any willful act or practice by a member, directed against a member or new member, which, with or without intent, is likely to: cause bodily harm or danger, offensive punishment, or disturbing pain, compromise the person's dignity; cause embarrassment or shame in public; cause the person to be the object of malicious amusement or ridicule; cause psychological harm or substantial emotional strain; and impair academic efforts. In addition, hazing is any requirement by a member which compels a member or new member to participate in any activity which is illegal, is contrary to moral or religious beliefs, or is contrary to the rules and regulations of the sorority/fraternity, institution of learning, and civil authorities.
Initiation: A ceremony during which new members receive life long membership privileges into the organization they have chosen to be a part of.
Independent Greek Council (IGC): The student-led governing body that supports the fraternal organizations at MSU that have historically chosen to recruit members from Asian, Latina/o, or multicultural communities.
Intake: Term for the process by which Independent Greek Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council members are selected to become new members of an organization. This is generally much more secretive than recruitment or rush for Panhellenic Council of Interfraternity Council members, but generally includes an application and an interview process, followed by an educational program done at the regional level conducted by alumni, then an initiation (generally known as “crossing”).
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.
Interfraternity Council (IFC): The MSU-based “chapter” of the North-American Interfraternity Conference; this is a student-led governing body that supports 23 of the men’s fraternities at MSU.
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. Some sororities also recognize extended family members as legacies as well.
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 National Pan-Hellenic Council term used to name new members who all joined during the same semester (similar to the term to “class” which is often used by Panhellenic Council and Interfraternity Council organizations). They are the potential new members of the organization. Lines are often given names.
National Order of Omega: This is a National Honor Society for Fraternity or Sorority members who maintain a grade point average above the All-Greek average, have distinguished themselves as leaders in the MSU Greek community, have exemplary character, and are either juniors or seniors. These individuals are nominated and voted upon by the Greek community and then inducted by current members of the Order at the end of each year.
National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC): The governing body of the nine traditionally African American fraternities and sororities, also known as the "Divine Nine." Currently, all nine organizations can recruit members at MSU.
National Panhellenic Council (NPC): A national organization comprised of 26 women’s fraternities and sororities, each of which is autonomous as a social, Greek-letter-society of college women. Currently, 13 of these organizations recruit students to become members at MSU.
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.
Neo or Neophyte: A new member of a Independent Greek Council or National Pan-Hellenic Council organization.
North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC): A national organization comprised of 69 fraternal organizations (mostly for men), each of which is autonomous as a social, Greek-letter-society of college men.
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.
New Member Program: The time period where the new member learns about their new sorority and fraternity before initiation. This time frame lasts from Bid day until Initiation. Formerly called pledge period (and still called this in some fraternities).
“On the Yard”: An NPHC phrase meaning that a chapter is currently chartered and able to recruit new members on campus.
Open Recruitment: A designated recruitment period during which each of the men’s fraternal organizations in the IFC host recruitment events at their own houses. This type of recruitment is considered “informal” because potential members need not follow a designated schedule.
Panhellenic Council (PC): The MSU-based “chapter” of the National Panhellenic Conference; this is a student-led governing body that supports 13 of the women’s fraternities and sororities at MSU.
Philanthropy: This is a community service project held by a fraternity, sorority, or both. MSU Greek students perform a number of these projects each year, and most Inter/National Fraternities and Sororities require their chapters to do one large project per year. Our chapters are extremely involved in university and community service participating in such events as Relay for Life, canned food drives, clothing drives, push-cart races, Safe Halloween, and many more.
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”
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.
Preference: The final parties held by Panhellenic Council organizations during Recruitment. These events are more formal than the previous parties 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 preference, indicating in order, which sororities of the ones whose parties they attended they liked the most. These cards, along with the organizations’ lists of members they would like, are used to match the PNMs and sororities with one another in a mutually selective process.
Quota: A specific number of women to which each Panhellenic Council sorority may extend membership during a formal (fall) recruitment period. This number is determined by the Panhellenic Council each year in conjunction with the National Panhellenic Conference.
Recolonize: A process where a fraternity or a sorority that was previously on campus receives another charter to recruit members on the same campus. Recolonization can happen because a chapter died out due to low numbers, or had their charter revoked.
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).
Rho Gamma: A Panhellenic representative who has no contact with her own chapter during formal membership recruitment and is available to guide women through the recruitment process and answer questions.
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 held by houses 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.
Total: The maximum number of members a Panhellenic Council sorority can have on a given campus; at MSU “total” is 115. Groups can only exceed total during formal recruitment if in the process of extending bids to quota, the chapter size grows beyond this number. Conversely, if a sorority has obtained quota during recruitment and is still below total, that sorority may continue to ask new members to join, but only up to total.