A Guide To Sorority Vocab For New Members

Vocab Lesson For New Members

Congratulations! You got a bid (AKA an invitation) to join a sorority (AKA a chapter, AKA a house)! As a new member (AKA a pledge, AKA a baby, AKA a newbie) there are going to be lots of words thrown around that will make you wonder what the hell is going on. While many of those words are organization-specific, we thought we would take a moment to clear up some confusion and give you a quick vocabulary lesson for typical sorority terms you’re bound to hear in the next few weeks.

Advisor: An alumna of your organization assigned to assist your chapter. She does everything from mediate sister conflicts, to facilitate the exec board retreat, to calm your parents’ fears about you living in the house. Don’t waste your time lying to her, because she already knows everything that goes on–and she probably did much, much worse things when she was an undergrad. By the way, this poor soul doesn’t get paid. She donates her time to make sure your chapter doesn’t go completely off the rails, so if you could not be a total bitch to her, that would be great.

Badge: Your sorority pin. It’s an expensive piece of jewelry that you will undoubtedly lose at least once.

Badge/Pin Attire: The proper attire to wear when you attend an event with your badge on. Think going to an interview, not going to a club.

Bylaws: The rules. Generally, this is approximately a 40-page document that details the ins and outs of all of the chapter’s policies, regarding everything from paying your bill, to what you can and can’t do in the house, to which events you are required to attend. No one ever actually reads the bylaws, but everyone will sign a piece of paper stating she has. Eventually everyone gets in trouble for something she “didn’t know was a rule.”

Chapter: 1. Meeting; the official business meeting of the chapter, which usually takes place weekly or biweekly. If they were in any way efficient, they would take 30 minutes. Plan on an hour and a half. 2. The campus group of a national organization. Chapters are usually referenced via a Greek letter order within the organization, as in the Alpha chapter of XYZ sorority. Sometimes they are also called houses, which is particularly weird on campuses that don’t actually have sorority houses.

Committees: Teams of members formed to accomplish the tasks of the chapter. Committees go one of two ways: they may actually be effective in getting stuff done, or they will be a complete waste of time and one person will end up doing everything. Odds are usually on the latter.

Crush Party: An event thrown by the sorority. Each member will tell the sorority who her “crushes” are, and the men are invited to the event by the sorority, not the sister, so her crush remains anonymous. Oftentimes, this doesn’t follow tradition and sisters boycott their anonymity and invite one or more of their male friends (or crushes). Since members are usually allowed to invite more than one male guest, and a handful of tickets are given to each fraternity, this is the only time in your entire college career that the ratio will be in your favor–and there is no expectation to leave with a guest you invited.

Date Party: A semiformal event in which you will get to bring a date to a somewhat classy venue, get really wasted, and either make out with your date or someone else’s.

Exchanges/Mixers/Socials: Parties that happen when a sorority chapter pairs up with a fraternity chapter for a social event. These can either take place in a fraternity house basement with alcohol served out of some kind of large container or a venue with a dance floor, depending on the school and budget. These are usually themed.

Exec/E-Board: The executive board of the chapter. These are the elected officers of the chapter. You will alternately hate them for making you do stuff you do not want to do and love them for dealing with all of the bullshit so you don’t have to.

Formal: A more formal event that usually takes place at the end of each school year. Sometimes dinner is served, meaning the event starts earlier, meaning you have that many more hours to get fucked up. Think prom with a lot more booze and no chaperones.

GDI: God Damn Independent. This unfortunate soul didn’t join a fraternity or a sorority. It’s okay to be friends with a GDI, but he or she will NEVER understand you the way your sisters do. How could she? She’s not in the bond.

House Mom: The adult (or adults, in some cases) who is paid to live in a chapter house and make sure the live-in members don’t burn it to the ground and/or throw wild parties. She is not paid nearly enough for this responsibility and will likely require years of therapy after she leaves.

Initiation: The event where all of your chapter’s secrets are revealed to you in one long ceremony. Women regularly pass out from dehydration, thanks to their drinking shenanigans the previous night.

Kitchen Duty: That’s where all of the sisters you didn’t meet during recruitment were hidden. If you are ever given kitchen duty, you should question your social skills and/or fashion choices.

Ritual: Any event (such as initiation) that holds all of your chapter’s secrets, morals, and beliefs. People normally wear robes and it usually gets weird. All of the sisters will make it seem like a big deal because they know all the words and gestures and you don’t, but in reality they don’t actually know it. They read it from paper or just recite some gibberish.

Sober Sister: The poor, poor sister who is supposed to stay sober at a social function to make sure none of her sisters make any unfortunate (as in flashing the whole party her boobs) or tragic (as in drunk driving) mistakes. Ideally, the sober sister volunteers, but often the sober sister (or sisters) got in trouble at the last event and has to repay the chapter this way. All of us will probably have to be a sober sister at some point, so take pity on her and don’t be a complete asshole. Karma’s a bitch.

Standards: The internal judicial board where sisters will judge and punish you for the same things they did when they were freshmen, but no one got a picture of it to use as evidence. (For advice on how to deal with getting called into Standards, click here and here.)

Throw What You Know: According to Urban Dictionary, this is “when sorority girls flash their wannabe gang signs for group pictures, pictures with celebrities, or any pictures at all.” #truth

Email this to a friend

Jenna Crowley

Jenna used to be known as 2NOTBrokeGirls, but then one of the girls actually went broke, so she's struck out on her own. Jenna spends her free time saving the world, one sorority girl at a time (usually while wearing yoga pants), questioning why she decided to get a doctorate, and documenting her love of all things cheese related. You can ask her anything you want about football, using your boobs to get what you want, and pizza at @JennaLCrowley on Twitter or via email at

For More Photos and Videos

Latest podcasts

New Stories

Load More