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The following traditions and lingo definitions are based on information provided by the U.Va. Library and Office of Orientation & New Student Programs.

U.Va. Traditions

From the beginning, rituals, routines, clubs and societies became a lasting part of life on Grounds. Some traditions, like the Jefferson Society founded in 1825, and the Honor System established in 1842, survive to the present. Other traditions were succeeded by new ones over time. The ante-bellum amusements of quoits, marbles, cotillions and surreptitious cock fights gave way to organized sports and "Easters" mud-baths. The patriotic school colors of cardinal and Confederate gray became the orange and blue more visible on a muddy athletic field. Though the names lingered on in the yearbook, "corking" and "curling" were replaced by the more familiar "failing" and "acing." Through all the continuities and changes, one theme remains: abiding affection for the University — its Lawn, its traditions, its students and professors — continuing unbroken for over 187 years.

The Lawn
Despite numerous inconveniences, students annually vie for a room on the University's Lawn. Originally only Virginians were eligible to reside in the coveted Lawn and Range rooms, but all this changed in 1949 when it was announced that the rooms would be assigned to student leaders — geography notwithstanding.

The Honor System
On November 12, 1840, Professor John A. G. Davis was shot to death in an attempt to quiet a disturbance on the Lawn. This incident resulted in the adoption of the Honor Code in 1842.

The University of Virginia's Honor System is one of the school's most venerated traditions. Administered solely by students, the Honor System requires that an individual act honorably in all relations and phases of student life. More specifically, the system rests on the premise that lying, cheating, and stealing are breaches of the spirit of honor and mutual trust and are not to be tolerated within the University community. Students found guilty by a jury of their peers are permanently dismissed from the University. Expulsion is, and has been, the only sanction for an honor violation for more than 187 years.

Secret Societies
Many secret and honorary societies have been established at the University of Virginia, including the Seven Society, IMPs, Zs, P.U.M.P.K.I.N., T.I.L.K.A., Raven, Rotunda Burning, Purple Shadows, K.O.T.A., and Eli Banana. During the Depression, and especially in the few years prior, with smaller student bodies, nearly every man at Virginia held membership in one or more society. These cliques represented a further social ordering mechanism for Virginia's boys. While some societies are service-oriented and contribute financially to the University, others were formed for simply good-natured fun. Secret societies may perhaps be the best extant link to the tradition-doused University of the Depression. A certain unassailability of old ideas and ways exist in the rituals and behavior of these groups.

The Jefferson Society and Debating Society
The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society was founded on July 14, 1825, by 16 disgruntled members of the now-defunct Patrick Henry Society in Room Seven, West Lawn. For over 181 years, the Society has distinguished itself as the oldest continuously existing collegiate debating society in North America, and indeed the second-oldest Greek-lettered organization in the United States.

The Society, named in honor of Jefferson, boasts among its membership the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia Governor James Gilmore, President Woodrow Wilson and University President John T. Casteen III. Honorary membership has been conferred upon such dignified notables as President James Madison, President James Monroe, the Marquis de Lafayette and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The Good Old Song
"The Good Old Song" is the school anthem of the University of Virginia. The lyrics were written by Edward A. Craighill in 1895.

Corks and Curls
"Corks and Curls" is the name of U.Va.'s student yearbook. First published in 1888, the student yearbook's original name is often misunderstood by today's student to mean "wine and women." However, the title is taken straight from the vernacular of the late 19th century: "The student who flagrantly failed to reply correctly to the questions of his professor in the classroom was said to have been 'corked' ... if he answered with a grand flourish of pertinent information, he was said to have 'curled.'"

As early as 1898, University students celebrated Easter Week or "Easters," a week-long spring celebration that included elaborate dances and athletic games which helped the students shake the winter doldrums. It was also an occasion to celebrate Thomas Jefferson's birthday, since the celebration often occurred right around April 13. As Easters continued into the second half of the 20th century, though, students, faculty, and administrators alike believed that the events were evolving into public street parties rather than University events. The last Easters celebration took place in 1982.

Learn more about U.Va. Traditions.


U.Va. Lingo

The University of Virginia is an institution rich with history and tradition. A good way to begin learning about this is to familiarize yourself with the terminology that contributes to U.Va.'s culture. The following is a short list of some University vocabulary that you may find useful.

  • Academical Village: The community of U.Va. students, faculty, and staff. The basis of Thomas Jefferson's idea that living and learning are connected. The Lawn is based on this concept with faculty living in the Pavilions and students in the Lawn rooms.
  • Carr's Hill: The home of U.Va.'s president. Carr's Hill is located across the street from the Mad Bowl.
  • C.D., a.k.a. the Cavalier Daily: The C.D. is the University's student run and produced newspaper.
  • C.O.D.: The abbreviated name for the Course Offering Directory, the C.O.D. is published every semester and includes lists of courses for the upcoming semester.
  • The Colonnades: Situated behind Lambeth Apartments (Lambeth Field is the grassy area), the Colonnades were recently restored and are the namesake for several formal dances (that were used to fund the restoration). The Colonnades are ideal for studying or playing. Some club sports play here occasionally.
  • The Corner: Located on University Avenue, the Corner is the ironically straight strip of restaurants and shops that is a favorite spot for U.Va. students.
  • First Year, Second Year, Third Year, Fourth Year: Instead of freshman, sophomore, junior, senior. Why? To be a "senior" implies that a person has reached the final phase of learning, a feat that Mr. Jefferson believed impossible, arguing instead that education is a life-long process.
  • Grounds: The term used by students to refer to the U.Va. campus.
  • Lawnie: The term used to refer to students who live on the Lawn. Selection of Lawn residents is by application and is based on GPA, activities, and service to the University. Students can apply to live on the Lawn during their final year of undergraduate study at the University. For more information, visit the Housing Division on the web or email
  • Mad Bowl: The sunken field across the street from the Rotunda on Rugby Road. Some club sports teams use this space for games. Mad Bowl is a great place to study, play Frisbee, or have a snowball fight!
  • Mr. Jefferson: Out of respect for the founder of the University who did not have a Ph.D., University faculty are referred to as Mr. or Mrs. instead of Doctor, even if they have a Ph.D. Medical doctors are the exception to the rule and they should be referred to as Doctors.
  • Pav: The retail dining facility located on the first floor of Newcomb Hall (real name: Pavilion XI).
  • Rugby Road: Rugby Road is the home of fraternity and sorority life at U.Va.
  • Wahoos: A fish that can drink twice its weight; an alternative name for the Cavaliers or the students at the University of Virginia.
  • Zs, 7s, IMPs, etc.: These are just a few of the secret societies on Grounds, most of which are philanthropic organizations. In some instances, members are known, but in others, members are kept secret.


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