Why are Fraternities Greek? A Complete Guide

Going to college is an exciting time, but it is filled with so many questions", like, "Why are fraternities Greek anyway?".

College Fraternities and Sororities have always attracted bad press. It's not all about drunken debauchery and initiation rituals that went too far though.

These organizations have members in the elite echelons of society. Many presidents, supreme court judges, and Fortune 500 executives are members.

These outcomes are more in line with the original idea of college fraternities. Read about how it all started out.

Latin Heritage

The first fraternities started up in 1750 at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg. They started out as debate clubs and literary societies. These groups usually went by Latin names to show off their scholarly intentions.

One society, 'Fraternitas, Hilaritas, Cognitoque" (FHC), became well-known for more than lively debate. They took the social aspects of club life to a whole new level.

This band of brothers' main activity was meeting at the pub. Their lively debate often descended into raucous shenanigans.

Before long they became known as the Flat Hat Club because of their unusual choice of headgear. The graduation caps of today stem from based on the same design.

Thomas Jefferson was a member of the Flat Hat Club, although he said it "served no useful object".

Many of the other early Latin fraternities also strayed off the straight and narrow.

Why are Fraternities Greek Then?

In 1776, a group of students with a genuine interest in debating started their own club. Hoping to avoid any association with their predecessors, they decided to go with both Latin and Greek in their charter, name, and motto.

Their motto is "Philosophia Biou Kubernetes'', which means, 'The Love of Wisdom, the Guide of Life'. They became known as Phi Beta Kappa which is the most respected honor society in America today. They used Greek letters as an abbreviation. Every fraternity after that followed suit.

Phi Beta Kappa spread to other universities during the 1800's. Today this fraternity has over 500,000 members.

Students who didn't make the grade for Phi Beta Kappa started forming their own groups. They stuck to the trend of using Greek instead of Roman in their identities.

Greek Life

Each of these sororities and fraternities developed their own rules and traditions.

At first, members lived in separate dorms. Over time, sororities and fraternities began to buy houses for their exclusive use.

Running a Chapter House involved far more organization than before. It also needs an ongoing membership to stay operational and pay the bills. As members graduate, sororities and fraternities need to 'rush' to recruit new members.

A sorority or fraternity offers benefits like fellowship, philanthropy and lasting friendships. If you want to enjoy these perks, you'll need to join in the tradition of rush before you enter college.

So Many Questions

It's likely that "Why are fraternities Greek" is only one of the things you're wondering about as you prepare to enter college.

Keep reading our blog for answers and advice on how to dress, act and live on campus.

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