Greek Terminology

Prospective members who are learning more about fraternity and sorority life will want to get acquainted with the following frequently used terms:

  • Active: A member who has been initiated into lifelong fraternity or sorority membership and participates in chapter activities at the collegiate level.
  • Alumni or alumnae: Initiated fraternity or sorority members who have graduated from college.
  • Badge: The pin of an initiated member.
  • Bid: A formal invitation to membership in a particular fraternity or sorority.
  • Big brother or sister: An active member of a fraternity or sorority who serves as a mentor to a new member, guiding him or her through the new member program and initiation.
  • Brother: A term used by fraternity members to refer to one another.
  • Call or chant: An audible sound used by members to acknowledge or gain the attention of other members. Calls may vary regionally within organizations, and some organizations may use more than one call.
  • Chapter: A local group of the larger inter/national organization, designated by a special Greek name.
  • Crossed: The same as being initiated. The term means different things to different groups, but generally means crossing over from being a pledge to being a full member. Most groups record this time to the second. Term also refers to crossing the burning sands.
  • Crossing the burning sands: A phrase that gets its roots from the Bible. It represents triumph over the temptations of the flesh, when one must rely on the assistance of another to successfully make it.
  • Drop: The term used to refer to someone who de-pledged or stopped pledging.
  • Executive office: The central organization of a particular fraternity or sorority. Often referred to as national headquarters, international headquarters or just nationals.
  • Frater: A term used to refer to another member of their fraternity. Sometimes they will refer to someone as simply frat.
  • Fraternity: The name that applies to all Greek organizations characterized by a ritual, badge and strong ties to friendship and moral principles. Informally, women’s fraternities are called sororities.
  • GAMMA: Greeks Advocating the Mature Management of Alcohol. A Greek student organization designed to promote interfraternity collaboration regarding the major health and safety issues affecting students, including alcohol abuse, impaired driving, sexually transmitted infections and sexual assault.
  • Grad or alumni chapter: The graduate chapter of NPHC or multicultural organization. Usually the local grad chapter oversees the operations of the undergraduate chapter.
  • Greek: Any member of a Greek-letter organization.
  • Hand sign: A signal used to identify members of the same organization. Most have a deep meaning to that organization or ritualistic symbol.
  • Informational: A recruitment event for culturally based groups.
  • Initiated member: Any member who has completed the new member process and has gone through the initiation ceremony.
  • Initiation: The formal ceremony that marks the beginning of active membership. Each chapter has a different set of requirements in order to be initiated.
  • Intake: The process several chapters perform to recruit, interview, choose and educate new members.
  • Interest: The title of a potential new member who the group knows is interested.
  • Interfraternity Council (IFC): The governing body of six fraternities at Georgia State. IFC operates under the affiliation requirements of the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC).
  • Lavaliere: A pendant with a fraternity or sorority’s Greek letters on it.
  • Legacy: The brother or sister, son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter of a fraternity or sorority member. Each inter/national organization has its own policy regarding legacies.
  • Line: The members of a cultural Greek organization new member class.
  • Line name: The name given to a pledge class. Some groups do number their lines by alpha, beta, gamma. Their line has a name to define them. Many times it is an acronym.
  • Membership recruitment: The mutual selection process that prospective members and chapter members go through during the recruitment period to get to know one another.
  • Multicultural Greek Council (MGC): The governing body of twelve culturally based fraternities and sororities at Georgia State.
  • Neophyte (aka neo): A new member of a cultural Greek organization.
  • New member: A member of a fraternity or sorority who has not been initiated.
  • New member presentation (aka rollout, probate): A formal presentation of a new line to campus. Usually done in a public forum after members have been initiated.
  • New member program: A period of learning about fraternity and sorority life prior to initiation. This period varies for all groups.
  • New member release: To end one’s fraternity or sorority membership before initiation.
  • North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC): The governing body for 72 national member men’s fraternities and alumni associations.
  • National Panhellenic Conference (NPC): The umbrella organization for 26 women’s fraternities. NPC supports its chapters by promoting values, education, leadership, friendship, cooperation and citizenship.
  • National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC): The governing body of eight sororities and fraternities on Georgia States campus whose membership is historically African-American.
  • Number: The number an individual is assigned based on the chronological order that individual is in on their initiation line (often members of other culturally based organizations identify or relate to one another by distinguishing that they are the same number).
  • Order of Omega: The National Greek Leadership Honor Society.
  • Panhellenic Council (PC): The governing body of five sororities on Georgia State’s campus.
  • Para (aka nalia): Short for paraphernalia. The different items of Greek clothing or items someone is wearing.
  • Philanthropy: A charitable fundraiser or service project sponsored by a fraternity or sorority.
  • Pi Chi: A Panhellenic sorority member who has disaffiliated herself from her chapter during formal membership recruitment. She is specially trained to help potential new members and answer any questions they may have about sorority membership.
  • Potential new member (PNM): A college student who is interested in joining a Greek organization and is taking part in the recruitment process.
  • Preferencing: During the last part of Panhellenic sorority recruitment, a potential new member determines which particular sorority she is willing to join. The potential new member lists three sororities in her order of preference.
  • Prophyte: A term used to refer to an older brother or sister from the same chapter.
  • Quota: The specified number of potential new members to which each sorority may extend a bid.
  • Sands (aka parallel): A member of an individual’s organization or another culturally based organization that was initiated at the same time that individual was.
  • Sister: A term used by sorority members to refer to one another.
  • Social: A get together event with another Greek organization.
  • Soror: A term used to refer to a sister in a NPHC or multicultural organization
  • Stepping: A historically black tradition characterized by synchronized hand foot movements, along with singing, dancing, chanting and acting. Many Latino/a and multicultural groups participate in stepping as well.
  • Stroll (aka party walk, party hop): A line dance done by members of cultural Greek organizations; usually done at a party or step show.
  • Surfacing: The first public appearance of a line. More widely used post-1990 by Latino organizations that maintain an above ground pledge program.
  • TeeKee: The large necklace worn with large Greek letters on them. Similar to a lavaliere but much larger and often made out of wood.
  • Total: Total is the allowable chapter size, including both new and initiated members, as determined by the Panhellenic Council.