Definition of fraternity
- The quality of being brothers; brotherliness.
- A group of people associated for a common purpose.
- (US) A social organization of male students at a college or university; usually identified by Greek letters.
- fraternise, fraternize
- fraternity house
A fraternity (Latin frater : "brother") is a brotherhood, though the term usually connotes a distinct or formal organization. The only true distinction between a fraternity and any other form of social organization is the implication that the members freely associate as equals for a mutually beneficial purpose, rather than because of a religious, governmental, commercial, or familial bond, although there are fraternities dedicated to each of these topics.
In many instances fraternities are limited to male membership but this is not always the case, and there are mixed male and female, and even wholly female, fraternities. For example, for general fraternities: Grande Loge Mixte de France, Honorable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, Grande Loge Féminine de France, Order of Odd Fellowsand Order of the Eastern Star.
Fraternities can be organized for many purposes, including university education, work skills, ethics, ethnicity, religion, politics, charity, chivalry, other standards of personal conduct, asceticism, service, performing arts, family command of territory, and even crime. There is almost always an explicit goal of mutual support, and while there have been fraternal orders for the well-off there have also been many fraternities for those in the lower ranks of society, especially for national or religious minorities. Trade unions also grew out of fraternities such as the Knights of Labor.
The ability to organize freely, apart from the institutions of government and religion, was a fundamental part of the establishment of the modern world. In Living the Enlightenment, Margaret C. Jacobs showed the development of Jurgen Habermas' 'public space' in 17th century Netherlands was closely related to the establishment of lodges of Freemasons.
- a b c d e f Stevens, Albert C. (1907). Cyclopedia of Fraternities: A Compilation of Existing Authentic Information and the Results of Original Investigation as to the Origin, Derivation, Founders, Development, Aims, Emblems, Character, and Personnel of More Than Six Hundred Secret Societies in the United States. E. B. Treat and Company.
- Jacob, Margaret C. (1991). Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe. New York, New York: Oxford University Press.
- Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.