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The Ultimate Sorority Life Glossary | mazi + zo sorority jewelry

Never mind the Greek, Sorority speak is a whole other language!

Do you know what a Gamma Chi or GDI is? Or why we don't use the term "rush" anymore?

Article: The Ultimate Sorority Glossary: F-L

The Ultimate Sorority Glossary: F-L

Families: In sorority life, "families" are smaller groups within the larger chapter that provide a support system, mentorship, and a sense of belonging. Imagine them as your own mini-clan or crew within the sorority – the ones you can always count on.

A sorority family typically includes:

  • Big Sister (Big): An older member who acts as a mentor and guide to a Little
  • Little Sister (Little): A newer member who is mentored by the Big.
  • G-Big (Grand Big): Your Big's Big, kind of like your sorority grandma.
  • G-Little: Your Little’s Little
  • Twins/or Twittles: Sometimes, a Big will take on more than one Little, making them "Twins.”

Fraternity (or Frat): A men's Greek-letter organization, similar to a sorority. These groups focus on brotherhood, leadership, academics, and social activities. Sorority members often interact with fraternities through joint events like Greek Week, socials, and philanthropy projects, fostering friendships and community connections. Fraternities are known for their strong bonds, lifelong friendships, and commitment to personal growth, much like sororities.


Formal: A dressy themed dance held once a year. Some chapters take the experience to the next level with destination formals, traveling to nearby cities or even out-of-state venues.


Formal Recruitment (or Rush): The structured process where potential new members (PNMs) get to know different sororities and find their best fit. This multi-day event is designed to introduce PNMs to the values, activities, and sisterhood each chapter offers.

Key Points About Formal Recruitment:

  • Structured Process: Typically involves multiple rounds, including open house, philanthropy, sisterhood, and preference rounds.
  • Mutual Selection: Both PNMs and sororities express their preferences, leading to a matching process.
  • Guided Experience: Recruitment counselors guide PNMs through the process, providing support and answering questions.

Why We Don’t Use "Rush" Anymore:

The term "rush" is outdated and doesn't accurately reflect the thoughtful, mutual selection process of joining a sorority. "Rush" suggests a hurried or pressured experience, whereas "formal recruitment" emphasizes a well-organized, considerate approach to finding a home within the Greek community.

Using "formal recruitment" highlights the importance of making informed, intentional choices, fostering a positive and respectful atmosphere for everyone involved. This change aligns with the evolving values and practices of modern sororities, focusing on inclusivity and genuine connections.

In essence, formal recruitment is all about finding your perfect sorority match in a supportive and structured environment!


Founders: The founding members of the inter/national sorority. 


Founders Day: Founders Day is a special annual celebration where sororities honor the founding members who established the chapter. It's a time to reflect on the history, values, and traditions that make the sorority unique. Members come together for ceremonies, speeches, and often social or philanthropic events to commemorate the legacy and vision of the founders. This day strengthens the bond between sisters, connects current members with alumnae, and renews the commitment to the sorority's principles and goals. 


Game Day: When members rally together to support their college sports teams, especially football. It's all about showing off school spirit and, of course, outfits. Picture matching outfits in school (and sorority!) colors, tailgate parties, and cheering in the stands with their closest friends. It's not just about the game – it's about the whole vibe, from pre-game hype to post-game celebrations. 


Gamma Chi: Also known as a Rho Chi or Rho Gamma. A recruitment counselor who guides potential new members (PNMs) through the formal recruitment process. These experienced sorority members temporarily disaffiliate from their chapters to provide unbiased support and advice to PNMs. Gamma Chis help navigate the recruitment rounds, answer questions, and offer encouragement, ensuring a positive and smooth experience. Their role is crucial in fostering a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, allowing PNMs to make informed decisions about joining a sorority. 


God Damn Independent (GDI): A college student who chooses not to join a fraternity or sorority. These individuals are independent of the Greek system and often take pride in their non-affiliation. The term is used both playfully and seriously, by Greeks and GDIs alike.


Good Standing: An active member's status when they meet all the chapter's requirements and obligations, including academic performance, financial dues, and active participation in events and meetings. Being in good standing ensures full privileges, such as voting rights, attending socials, and holding leadership positions. 


Greek: Anything related to the sorority and fraternity community. It encompasses the shared culture, values, traditions, and experiences of being part of a Greek-letter organization. Being "Greek" signifies a commitment to sisterhood or brotherhood, leadership, service, and academic excellence. It also implies belonging to a network of students and alumni who uphold the principles and bonds fostered within their respective sororities and fraternities.


Greek Life: The community of sororities and fraternities on a college campus. 


Greek Week: An annual event where all sororities and fraternities on campus come together to participate in a series of fun, competitive, and philanthropic activities. Sorority members use the term to refer to this week-long celebration that includes events like sports competitions, talent shows, charity fundraisers, and themed parties. Some Greek Weeks raise over $100,000 for their philanthropy partners. Greek Week fosters unity, friendly rivalry, and community spirit among the Greek organizations, providing a chance to showcase their pride, teamwork, and dedication to service.


Hand Sign: In NPC sororities, a hand sign is a unique gesture used to represent the sisterhood, often forming the letters or symbols of the sorority. These signs started in the early 2000s, inspired by the traditions of NPHC (aka Divine 9) sororities. However, some NPC sororities are now abandoning them, recognizing the importance of cultural sensitivity and evolving traditions.


Hazing: In the sorority world, hazing refers to any outdated initiation ritual that involves harassment, abuse, or humiliation. Thankfully, this dark chapter is largely in the past. Hazing is not just dangerous and degrading; it's also illegal and against the core values of sisterhood. Modern sororities have strict anti-hazing policies to ensure such practices are eradicated, promoting a safe, supportive environment instead. Today, real empowerment comes from uplifting and supporting each other, with true bonds built on respect, trust, and genuine connections—not fear or intimidation.


Headquarters: Also referred to as “national”, the operations of the inter/national sororities as well as their physical HQ building.


Honorary membership: A special status granted to individuals who embody the values and spirit of the sorority, even if they didn't go through the traditional recruitment process. It’s a recognition of exceptional achievements, influence, or contributions to society. Think of it as the sorority’s way of saying, "You inspire us, and we want you in our sisterhood." Celebrities like Rihanna, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Oprah Winfrey, known for their philanthropy and empowerment of women, have been granted honorary memberships. It’s a prestigious nod, celebrating those who make waves and align with the sorority's mission of making a positive impact.


Hot boxing: In formal recruitment, when two sorority members simultaneously recruit a Potential New Member (PNM). This can happen accidentally when bumping goes wrong or it can be a planned tactic to engage a PNM by making them feel special. While it's a common tactic, hot boxing can overwhelm a PNM and backfire. In recruitment, members should show enthusiasm and interest and also make sure the PNM has room to speak and ask questions.


House: Many universities have physical houses dedicated to each sorority. This is where all, or a portion, of the sisters live. Some members also refer to the entire organization as a “house”.


Inactive: Refers to a member who steps back from active participation in chapter activities and events. This status can be due to personal reasons, academic pressures, or other commitments. It's a way for members to prioritize their needs without fully severing ties with the sisterhood. 


Informal Recruitment: Also known as open recruitment, it’s a more relaxed, year-round process for joining a sorority without the structure and intensity of formal recruitment. Some schools hold informal recruitment to provide a flexible option for students who might have missed formal recruitment or prefer a more laid-back approach. This approach focuses on building connections organically, attending casual events, and finding your fit naturally. It offers a low-pressure way to discover sisterhood, allowing you to be yourself and find where you belong without strict timelines or elaborate rituals.


Infraction: When a member or chapter breaks the rules set by the sorority or the College Panhellenic Council. This breach can range from minor slip-ups to serious violations and usually comes with consequences. For example, a chapter might commit an infraction by hosting an unregistered social event, potentially resulting in fines or social probation. A member might break the rules by violating the recruitment process, such as engaging in unauthorized communication with potential new members, which could lead to suspension or even loss of membership


Initiated member: ​​Someone who has completed the formal initiation process and is now a full-fledged member of the inter/national organization and a chapter. This status means they’re fully integrated into the sorority, with all the rights, responsibilities, and lifelong connections that come with it.


Initiation: A formal ceremony where new members, after meeting specific criteria, are officially welcomed into the sorority. It’s a special tradition, filled with unique, secret rituals that vary from one sorority to another, bonding members together. This rite of passage marks the transition from a new recruit to a full-fledged sister, embracing the values, history, and lifelong connections that define the sorority. 


Lavaliere: A necklace featuring the Greek letters of a sorority or fraternity stacked in a vertical design (e.g., our Kappa Alpha Theta lavaliere). Originally, fraternity members would give lavalieres to their girlfriends as a sign of a serious relationship, even using the term as a verb—“Clara got lavaliered!” Today, both sorority and fraternity members wear lavalieres, though the tradition of exchanging them has become less common.


Lawn Letters: Those giant Greek letters displayed on the front lawn of a sorority house, often for events like Greek Week, recruitment, or parents’ weekend, and frequently featured in social media posts. Posing with the giant lawn letters is a Bid Day tradition you see all over social media.


Legacy: A potential new member with a family connection to a particular sorority, such as a mother, sister, or grandmother who was a member. Some chapters extend legacy qualification to a stepmother, stepsister, or aunt as well. While being a legacy can give you an edge, it doesn’t guarantee automatic membership. Some schools expect you to list any sorority affiliations on your recruitment information form, but here’s the twist: some people advise against it. They worry other sororities might choose to drop you, assuming you’ve already decided to join that sorority and not wanting to waste a spot they think you’ll decline. It’s a strategic choice, balancing the potential legacy benefit with one sorority against the risk of missing out on the rest.


Letters: The Greek letters representing a sorority's name, such as Alpha Delta Pi or Kappa Kappa Gamma. Wearing these letters is an honor and a symbol of pride and identity within the sisterhood and some sororities only allow members to wear letters after they’ve been initiated. When you wear your letters, you’re representing not just yourself, but your entire sorority, embodying its values and reputation, and there are rules about what you can and cannot do while wearing letters (like drinking). There’s also an idea that a sorority member is “always wearing letters,” meaning their actions and behavior, whether in sorority gear or not, reflect on the sorority at all times. 


Letter of Recommendation (or “Rec Letters” or “Letter of Support”): A formal endorsement written by an alumna or a current member, vouching for a Potential New Member (PNM) during the recruitment process. It should showcase the PNM’s character, achievements, leadership skills, academic performance, community involvement, and personal qualities that align with the sorority's values. Submitted before or during recruitment events, these letters can smooth a PNMs path into the sisterhood. 

 

Little Sister (or Little): Nickname for a new member who gets paired with an older member, called a big sister (or Big), to guide and support her. The big/little pairing is usually based on mutual interests and personalities, carefully matched to foster a strong bond.

 

Lineage (or Lin): see Families above

 

Local: A sorority chapter that isn't affiliated with a national organization. These chapters operate independently, creating their own traditions, rules, and identity. Being local means having the freedom to tailor the sisterhood to fit the unique vibe of the campus and its members. However, the downside is the lack of national support, resources, and networking opportunities that come with a national affiliation. It can be challenging to sustain and grow without the broader connections and backing of a larger organization.

 

Lookbook: We can think of three ways sororities use this term:

  1. A College Panhellenic Council (CPC) might create a digital or physical booklet that showcases each sorority on campus, including each sorority’s values, philanthropic efforts, sisterhood events, and more. This booklet is designed to introduce Potential New Members (PNMs) and others to Greek life at that school. 
  1. A sorority might create its own portfolio with more room to highlight its activities, executive team, famous alumnae, and more.
  1. A curated collection of outfits and style inspiration (often a Pinterest board), to help members create coordinated looks for particular events, especially work week and recruitment. Direction can be as simple as “wear purple” (we see you, DPhiE!) or much more detailed with specifics about which types of shoes are appropriate for an event. When it’s a themed event, lookbooks can be a huge help to find inspiration. In addition, a CPC might issue lookbooks to help PNMs know what to wear for each round of recruitment, which is extremely helpful to PNMs who haven’t been exposed to Greek life before the process.

 

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