Is there a gender neutral form for "fraternity/sorority"? How about "brotherhood/sisterhood"?

Example: As in "If mathematicians were to form a fraternity of scholars, as in yet another alpha beta omega club, their hazing rite would be ...". Wikipedia article suggests such organizations are meant to be gender exclusive. So perhaps no words exist to suggest a club of both sexes which otherwise has chracteristics of Greek organizations.

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    For brotherhood/sisterhood, I'd say siblinghood
    – Yay
    Feb 13, 2016 at 21:16
  • In what context? As an abstract concept, or as a concrete organization of specific people? Please follow the guidelines for asking questions about words that fit a specific meaning: english.stackexchange.com/tags/single-word-requests/info One of the guidelines is to include an example sentence to show how you would like to use the word that you're asking for. You should also do a bit of research before posting a question (this can be as simple as looking up the words "fraternity" and "sorority" in a dictionary) and tell us what you found out.
    – herisson
    Feb 13, 2016 at 21:16
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    @sumelic More of an abstract concept.
    – Maesumi
    Feb 13, 2016 at 21:19
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    In college yearbooks (of the mid-1970s), the gender-neutral, probably offensive term “Greeks” was used to head the book’s section listing all the sororities & fraternities on campus. The likewise gender-neutral generic adjective “panhellistic" was also used when discussing matters “of or relating to ALL Greek-letter fraternities & sororities,” with “panhels” used as a gender-neutral noun to go with it (but if capitalized &/or part of an official name “panhellistic” & “panhels” lose their gender-neutral &/or their all-inclusive generic meanings).
    – Papa Poule
    Feb 13, 2016 at 22:54

7 Answers 7


Most co-ed fraternities are called "fraternities" (though I do know of one co-ed sorority; it was originally women-only, and retained the label "sorority" when it opened its doors to men).

However, there are some serious problems with your example:

  • The phrase "fraternity of scholars" is already well-attested, and almost never refers to a Greek organization; rather, it's generally either figurative, or referring to co-ed groups like Phi Beta Kappa.
    • Note that Phi Beta Kappa, despite being a fraternity, and despite being named with Greek letters, is not a "Greek organization", and will not evoke the Animal House image that you seem to have in mind.
  • Even without that phrase, when you talk about mathematicians forming a fraternity, people are likely to think of a professional fraternity. There are actually quite a few math fraternities, and most of them are co-ed, but (like Phi Beta Kappa) they are not "Greek organizations" and will not evoke a Animal House image. Even readers who are not familiar with any math fraternities, specifically, are likely to picture something along these lines: there exist chemistry fraternities, engineering fraternities, and so on, so a math fraternity is a natural idea.
  • More generally — no co-ed fraternities are "Greek organizations". There's no gender-neutral way to evoke the Animal House image.
  • A large proportion of Americans have belonged to fraternities and sororities that are Greek organizations — and the majority of these do not haze. You should consider whether you really want to turn off a good chunk of your readership by presupposing that they conform to a negative stereotype. (It's a bit like writing, "When women mathematicians get together, their catfights are […]" . . . no matter where you might go with it, you've lost a chunk of your audience. Though to be sure, a hazing joke will not be anywhere near as offensive as a catfight joke.)

If your goal is just to set up a joke about mathematics-themed hazing, I'd suggest writing something like, "When mathematicians haze each other, it's by […]". Your readers will get that it's a joke. It doesn't require lots of setup.

(By the way — "brotherhood" can also be gender-neutral, but it never conveys the specific idea of a Greek organization.)

  • Your last sentence is confusing. Wikipedia has: '... some traditionally gender-neutral terms, such as chairman, ... are increasingly seen by some, but not all, as being gender-specific'. These are subjective views, and ' "brotherhood" is considered by some, but not all, to be gender-neutral ' would be better. Feb 13, 2016 at 23:19
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    @EdwinAshworth: Hmm. I was trying to make a(n objectively true) statement about usage, namely that the word "brotherhood" is sometimes used in reference to groups and relationships that include women (and occasionally even in reference to groups and relationships that include only women). I can see how my sentence could be confusing (since "gender-neutral" has many different meanings), but your specific proposal would be saying something quite different than what I was going for. Do you have any suggestions for how to say what I meant?
    – ruakh
    Feb 13, 2016 at 23:51
  • @EdwinAshworth: Oh, I now realize that I had misunderstood the second part of the OP's question -- I thought (s)he was asking if "brotherhood/sisterhood" could be used as a gender-neutral way to refer to a fraternity/sorority, but I now realize that (s)he was asking for a gender-neutral variant of "brotherhood/sisterhood". That makes this a more interesting question; I'll have to give it more thought.
    – ruakh
    Feb 13, 2016 at 23:53

If it is literally a Greek organization on a college campus and you don't want to denote the gender, then I would say "Greek organization." If you are referring to a figurative brotherhood/sisterhood or a society of people whereby one can only join via invitation, I'd say "club" or "the society of (whatever joins that group of people together)."


'brotherhood; is not gender neutral. perhaps only a woman could tell you this. nor is man or mankind. words that might suffice as gender neutral options for fraternity or sorority are: camaraderie, guild, affiliation, club, fellowship, house, kinship, order and society


For brotherhood/sisterhood, you can use siblinghood.

Latin is a gendered language and so fraternity and sorority do not have a gender neutral term that is inclusive of both in the way sibling is for brother and sister.

  • 1
    Do you have any reference that shows that "siblinghood" is used this way?
    – herisson
    Feb 13, 2016 at 21:22
  • It's on wiktionary, but I'm having trouble finding a source outside of that: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/siblinghood. It's not in the OED. I was able to find a number of articles that use it, but no more reputable source unfortunately.
    – user160296
    Feb 13, 2016 at 21:39
  • Wiktionary says it is "the state of being a sibling." Would this fit in the example sentence? "If mathematicians were to form a siblinghood of scholars, as in yet another alpha beta omega club, their hazing rite would be ..." The meaning seems wrong to me. (Since this is your post, it's better if you respond by directly editing it rather than just leaving a comment.)
    – herisson
    Feb 13, 2016 at 21:41
  • I see what you mean. It does not work in the example you gave. The articles I was able to find use it in a specific sense of literal siblings.
    – user160296
    Feb 13, 2016 at 21:43

(Additional potential question context) This question is also relevant to unions. There are efforts in some labour unions, especially in the trades, to be more accepting of women and gender minorities in their ranks, for which a change in language might be useful. Unions are referred to either formally or informally as "brotherhoods" and while references might be made to "brothers and sisters" or "brotherhood and sisterhood", e-mails are still frequently signed of "Fraternally, " (though never whatever the female equivalent might be).

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    – Community Bot
    Jul 7 at 2:29

Frater-nity based on the Latin word frater or brother. Soror-ity based on the Latin word soror or sister.

Therefore, a gender neutral word would have to be based on the Latin word for sibling or fratrem. I propose the new word fratremity. Language is a living and evolving thing, and as we try to end gender bias we need it to evolve in that direction.

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    Hello, DC_M. I'm afraid you're really not in tune with the aims of ELU. To part-quote a senior and respected member here, @nohat: 'While I'm not entirely opposed to “single word requests” I get pretty anxious when people ... take them as an invitation to start coining 'words'. I really don't feel comfortable at all with our site becoming a place where people go who want a word invented.... I think we will rapidly lose our reputation as a place where people can get authoritative answers if many answers are not authoritative but just merely inventive.' [scare quotes round 'words' mine] Mar 17, 2018 at 11:24

I decided to do a bit of research on this subject. Before I give the answer I have come up with, first consider this.

Fraternity etymology: Old Latin: fraternus Latin: fraternitus Old French: fraternite English: fraternal

Sorority etymology: Medieval Latin: sororitas Latin: soror English: maternal

My answer (sibling based) is “Fratremity” Latin: fratrem French: fratrie English: paternal

  • How is this answer from October, different from @DC_Michael_1981’s in March? and please note the comment on that answer.
    – Jim
    Nov 26, 2018 at 16:46

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