Going Greek: A Guide to Sorority and Fraternity Terminology and Symbolism

“Big”

Assigned to the elders of a Greek organization.Becoming a “big brother” or “big sister” in a Greek organization denotes that you get to become a role model to a “New Member” or “Pledge”. As a big, you essentially become their advisor throughout initiation and during their time in college. The bond between big and little is very special, and often times a lifetime bond is forged.

“Little” 

In order to become a “big brother” or “big sister,” you have to become a “little brother” or “little sister” first, and pledge to join a fraternity or sorority. While this position isn’t an enviable one, especially when rushing, you get an older friend who can help you navigate the entire process of pledging. Some organizations allow you to choose your big or little. Other times it’s randomly assigned. And sometimes, it’s a little bit of both.

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Pledgeship

The process of pledging is typically a six to nine month process, though it depends on the organization you’re pledging. This is where you’ll go through the process of becoming a brother or sister of an organization, including being paired with a big brother or big sister. You must complete this period of time in order to join the fraternity or sorority and become an official member.

Paddles

Paddles are traditionally an integral part of sorority and fraternity life, and are made by a “little brother or sister” and given to a “big brother or sister” within the organization. These wooden paddles are hand-painted and often contain the names of the big and little, along with the organization’s crest, chapter, and colors. It’s symbolic of the relationship between fraternity and sorority siblings, and is a cherished keepsake.

Lavalier

A necklace or charm of a fraternity that is given from a fraternity brother to his girlfriend, symbolizing his commitment to her. It also symbolizes the acceptance of the chapter. A man typically gives his girlfriend a lavalier prior to their engagement. It is considered a very special, sentimental gesture by both the fraternity and the girlfriend if she is in a sorority.

Pinning

This is where a fraternity brother “pins” his girlfriend with the badge of the fraternity, symbolizing his long-term commitment to this person, and most likely a precursor marriage. This is a time-honored tradition and symbolizes that a brother views his girlfriend in the same, if not higher regard, than his fraternity brothers. At times, this isn’t always met with acceptance by the brothers of the fraternity but it also denotes the sacrifice and commitment a brother makes to his chapter.

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One Greek Store offers Greek Apparel and merchandise, including Greek Paddles. They also offer Custom Greek Apparel. You can visit their Gainesville, Florida retail store or order online.

By Laine McKenna

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