Hazing of French military pilot at 1,000 hours flight time

Hazing is a term used to describe various ritual and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group.

Hazing is seen in many different types of groups, including in gangs, clubs, sports teams, military units, and workplaces and fraternities. In the United States and Canada, hazing is often associated with Greek-letter organizations (fraternities and sororities). Hazing is often prohibited by law and may be either physical (possibly violent) or mental (possibly degrading) practices. It may also include nudity or sexually oriented activities.



In some continental European languages, terms with a "christening" theme or etymology are preferred (e.g. baptême in French, in Dutch doop (mostly used in Flanders)) or variations on a theme of naïveté and the rite of passage such as a derivation from a term for freshman (e.g. bizutage in French, ontgroening (de-green[horn]ing) in Dutch (mostly used in the Netherlands)) or a combination of both, such as in the Finnish mopokaste (literally "moped baptism", "moped" being the nickname for freshmen, stemming from the concept that they would be barred from riding a full motorcycle at their age). In Latvian, the word "iesvētības", which literally means "in-blessings" is used, it also stands for religious rites of passage, especialy confirmation. In Swedish, the term used is "nollning", literally "zeroing". In Spain, the term is "novatada" from "novato" meaning newcomer and in Portugal "praxe", which literally means "habit". In the Italian military, instead, the term used was nonnismo, from nonno (literally "grandfather"), a jargon term used for the soldiers who had already served for most of their draft period. A similar equivalent term exists in the Russian military, where a hazing phenomenon knowing as Dedovshchina exists, meaning roughly "grandfather" or the slang term "gramps" (referring to the senior corps of soldiers in their final year of conscription).

Often most or all of the endurance, or at least the more serious ordeal, is concentrated in an orgiastic collective session, which may be called hell night, or prolonged to a hell week and/or retreat or camp, sometimes again at the pledge's[1] birthday (e.g. by birthday spanking), but some traditions keep terrorizing pledges over a long period, resembling fagging.

Early examples

Francisco de Quevedo includes a scene of students hazing one another in his picaresque novel El Buscón (1626).[2] In 1684, Joseph Webb was expelled from Harvard for hazing.[3]

In 1873, a New York Times Article read; "West Point.; "Hazing" at the Academy--An Evil That Should be Entirely Rooted Out"[4]


Tied and blindfolded freshmen from Universidad de Talca, Chile

Hazing has been reported in a variety of social contexts. Sports teams ranging from amateur junior football leagues to professional clubs have used ritual hazing ceremonies to initiate new members, especially when the new person is younger than the rest of the team.[citation needed] Chapters of Greek letter organizations have developed a number of complex hazing rituals that range from demeaning tasks to humiliating ceremonies. These practices are most common in, but not limited to, North American schools. Swedish students undergo a similar bonding period, known as nollningen, in which all members of the entering class participate (see fraternities and sororities for more information). College and universities in general, from Ivy league to smaller institutions, such as the officially sanctioned "Kangaroo Court" at Quincy University, Illinois have also been associated with hazing rituals[citation needed]. Other groups within university life that have hazing rituals include competition teams, fan clubs, social groups, secret societies and even certain service clubs, or rather their local chapters (such as some modern US Freemasons; not traditional masonic lodges). While hazing is less common in high schools, some secondary education institutions have developed hazing rituals.[citation needed]

The armed forces in various countries have long had hazing rituals, which often involve violence and punishments. The United States military defines hazing as unnecessarily exposing a fellow soldier to an act which is cruel, abusive, oppressive, or harmful. The Army maintains that they do not condone hazing, as it is not congruent with their value system.[5] In the US hard hazing practices from World War I boot camps were introduced into colleges.[citation needed] In Poland army hazing is called Polish fala "wave" adopted pre-World War I from non-Polish armies.[citation needed] In the British Army it doesn't have a specific name as it isn't seen as a ritual of any sort, but similar incidents occur in the early ranks.[citation needed] In the Russian army (formerly the Red Army) hazing is called "Dedovshchina".[citation needed] Police forces, especially those with a paramilitary tradition, or sub-units of police forces such as tactical teams, may also have hazing rituals.[citation needed] Rescue services, such as lifeguards or air-sea reascue teams may have hazing rituals.[citation needed] The senior ranks within Boy Scout Troops have sometimes developed hazing practices.[citation needed] Some workplaces use hazing to initiate newly hired employees.[citation needed] Inmate hazing is also common at prisons around the world, including frequent reports of beatings and sexual assaults by fellow inmates.[citation needed]

The "Scenes of Hazing", as portrayed in an early student yearbook of the Massachusetts Agricultural College. Circa 1879.

It is a subjective matter where to draw to line between "normal" hazing (somewhat abusive) and a mere rite of passage (essentially bonding; proponents may argue they can coincide), and there is a gray area where exactly the other side passes over into sheer degrading, even harmful abuse that should not be tolerated even if accepted voluntarily (serious but avoidable accidents do still happen; deliberate abuse with similar grave medical consequences occurs, in some traditions rather often).[citation needed] Furthermore, as it must be a ritual initiation, a different social context may mean a same treatment is technically hazing for some, not for others, e.g., a line-crossing ceremony when passing the equator at sea is hazing for the sailor while the extended (generally voluntary, more playful) application to passengers is not.[citation needed]

"Hazing" refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person's willingness to participate.[citation needed] In years past, hazing practices were typically considered harmless pranks or comical antics associated with young men in college fraternities.[citation needed]

Hazing extends far beyond college fraternities and is experienced by boys/men and girls/women in school groups, university organizations, athletic teams, the military, and other social and professional organizations.[citation needed] Hazing is a complex social problem that is shaped by power dynamics operating in a group and/or organization and within a particular cultural context.[citation needed]

According to stophazing.org, hazing activities are generally considered to be: physically abusive, hazardous, and/or sexually violating. The specific behaviors or activities within these categories vary widely among participants, groups and settings. While alcohol use is common in many types of hazing, other examples of typical hazing practices include: personal servitude; sleep deprivation and restrictions on personal hygiene; yelling, swearing and insulting new members/rookies; being forced to wear embarrassing or humiliating attire in public; consumption of vile substances or smearing of such on one's skin; brandings; physical beatings; binge drinking and drinking games; sexual simulation and sexual assault.[6]


Sign in Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais against the violence in hazing ("trote", in Brazilian Portuguese) inside the colleges, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

The practice of ritual abuse among social groups is poorly understood. This is partly due to the secretive nature of the activities, especially within collegiate fraternities and sororities, and in part a result of long-term acceptance of hazing. Thus, it has been difficult for researchers to agree on the underlying social and psychological mechanisms that perpetuate hazing. In military circles hazing is sometimes assumed to test recruits under situations of stress and hostility. Although in no way a recreation of combat, hazing does put people into stressful situations that they are unable to control, which allegedly should weed out those weaker members prior to being put in situations where failure to perform will cost lives. A portion of the training course known as SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape) simulates as closely as is feasible the physical and psychological conditions of a POW camp. Part of the purpose of SERE training is to train and test soldiers on their ability to resist methods of interrogation.

The problem with this approach, according to opponents, is that the stress and hostility comes from inside the group, from the assumed "good guys", and not from outside as in actual combat situation, creating suspicion and distrust towards the superiors and comrades-in-arms. Willing participants may be motivated by a desire to prove to senior soldiers their stability in future combat situations, making the unit more secure, but blatantly brutal hazing can in fact produce negative results, making the units more prone to break, desert or mutiny than those without hazing traditions, as observed in the Russian army in Chechnya, where units with the strongest traditions of dedovschina were the first to break and desert under enemy fire.[7] At worst, hazing may lead into fragging incidents.

Outside of the criminal context, a form of the syndrome may take place in military basic training, in which "training is a mildly traumatic experience intended to produce a bond," with the goal of forming military units which will remain loyal to each other even in life-threatening situations. It would be more difficult to make such a case in favour of hazing ceremonies in academic bodies and social clubs, where the origin is imitating educational (parental and school) discipline in substitute households and internal teaching.

In a 1999 study, a survey of 3,293 collegiate athletes, coaches, athletic directors and deans found a variety of approaches to prevent hazing, including strong disciplinary and corrective measures for known cases, implementation of athletic, behavioral, and academic standards guiding recruitment; provisions for alternative bonding and recognition events for teams to prevent hazing; and law enforcement involvement in monitoring, investigating, and prosecuting hazing incidents.[8] Hoover's research suggested half of all college athletes are involved in alcohol-related hazing incidents, while one in five are involved in potentially illegal hazing incidents. Only another one in five was involved in what Hoover described as positive initiation events, such as taking team trips or running obstacle courses.

"Athletes most at risk for any kind of hazing for college sports were men; non-Greek members; and either swimmers, divers, soccer players, or lacrosse players. The campuses where hazing was most likely to occur were primarily in eastern or southern states with no anti-hazing laws. The campuses were rural, residential, and had Greek systems," Hoover wrote. Hoover uses the term "Greek" to refer to U.S.-style fraternities and sororities. Non-fraternity members were most at risk of hazing, Hoover reported. Football players are most at risk of potentially dangerous or illegal hazing, the study found. In the May issue of the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, Michelle Finkel, MD, reported that hazing injuries are often not recognized for their true cause in emergency medical centers. The doctor said hazing victims sometimes hide the real cause of injuries out of shame or to protect those who caused the harm. In protecting their abusers, hazing victims can be compared with victims of domestic violence, Finkel wrote.[citation needed]

Finkel cites hazing incidents including "beating or kicking to the point of traumatic injury or death, burning or branding, excessive calisthenics, being forced to eat unpleasant substances, and psychological or sexual abuse of both males and females". Reported coerced sexual activity is sometimes considered "horseplay" rather than rape, she wrote. Finkel quoted from Hank Nuwer's book Wrongs of Passage which counted 56 hazing deaths between 1970 and 1999.[9] Even in the modern western military, which combines discipline with welfare priorities, initiation practices can cause controversy. Although not a part of the training programme of the British Royal Marines, there is a tradition (in many military - especially elite - corps) of subjecting the newly trained ranks to a hell night-like "joining run", a macho preparation of men in the prime of their lives for the ordeals of warfare, going beyond what most civilians (and even many service personnel) would find acceptable; it usually combines humiliation (such as nudity) with physical endurance.

In November 2005, controversy arose over a video showing Royal Marines fighting naked and intoxicated as part of a hazing ritual. The fight culminated with one soldier receiving a kick to the face, rendering him unconscious.[10] The victim, according to the BBC, said "It's just Marine humour".[citation needed] The Marine who leaked the video said "The guy laid out was inches from being dead". Under further investigation, the Marines had just returned from a six month tour of Iraq, and were in their "cooling down" period, in which they spend two weeks at a naval base before they are allowed back into society. The man who suffered the kick to the head did not press charges.

In 2008, a National Hazing study was conducted by Dr. Elizabeth Allan and Dr. Mary Madden from the University of Maine. This investigation is the most comprehensive study of hazing to date and includes survey responses from more than 11,000 undergraduate students at 53 colleges and universities in different regions of the U.S. and interviews with more than 300 students and staff at 18 of these campuses. Through the vision and efforts of many, this study fills a major gap in the research and extends the breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding about hazing. Ten initial findings are described in the report, Hazing in View: College Students at Risk. These include:

  1. More than half of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing.
  2. Nearly half (47%) of students have experienced hazing prior to coming to college.
  3. Alcohol consumption, humiliation, isolation, sleep- deprivation, and sex acts are hazing practices common across student groups.[11]


In the U.S. hazing has resulted in several deaths and serious injuries. Matthew Carrington was killed at California's Chico State University on February 2, 2005. As a direct result, a number of colleges and parents, as well as sorority and fraternity members are taking steps to bring an end to criminal hazing practices. Colleges and fraternities have also faced civil liability in actions brought for injuries and deaths caused by fraternity hazing.[12] Hazing is considered a felony in several U.S. states, and anti-hazing legislation has been proposed in other states. SB 1454, or Matt's Law, was developed in Carrington's memory, and a bill was put into law to eliminate hazing in California. There is anti-hazing legislation in several countries, e.g. in France (the French term is bizutage) imposing a punishment up to six months in prison or 7,500 €.[13] In the Philippines, hazing accompanied by any forms of temporary or permanent physical injuries (from light injuries to injuries resulting to death), sexual abuse (in any form) or any acts that lead to mental incapacity are punishable by law. Penalties vary depending on how serious the offense is.[14]

In Indonesia, 35 people died since 1993 as a result of hazing initiation rites in the Institute of Public Service (IPDN). The latest is in April 2007 when Cliff Muntu died after being beaten by the seniors.[15]

In India, ragging (as hazing is called there) is legally banned. However, implementation of the law remains problematic because victims rarely speak out. Recently, the Supreme Court of India directed the police to register criminal cases against those accused of ragging. State governments have also been instructed to take a tougher stance on ragging[citation needed].

In Russia the victim of a high-profile hazing attack, Andrei Sychyov required the amputation of his legs and genitalia after he was forced to squat for three hours whilst being beaten and tortured by a group on New Year's Eve 2005. The brutal attack on Sychyov, and its horrific consequences highlighted the widespread problem of dedovshchina - or hazing - in the Russian armed forces.[citation needed]


Before the Great Depression, U.S. hazing achieved an art form status amongst benevolent fraternities such as the Mooses and the Freemasons. The DeMoulin Catalog is a catalog of many hazing implements used, most famously the electric carpet. In many cases, the hardest abuse is usually only enacted for a photograph (sometimes even posted on the Internet) or video. Reported hazing activities can involve all types of ridicule and humiliation within the group or in public — many of which could easily be considered[by whom?] abusive if a candidate were not a consenting adult — while others are quite innocent, akin to pranks. Spanking is done mainly in the form of paddling among fraternities, sororities and similar (e.g., athletic) clubs, sometimes over a lap, a knee, furniture or a pillow (pile), but mostly with the victim "assuming the position," i.e., simply bending over forward. A variation of this (also as punishment) is trading licks. This practice is also used in the military (where a new round of hazing can follow a promotion, etc.). Alternative modes (including bare-buttock paddling, strapping and switching, as well as mock forms of antiquated forms of physical punishments such as stocks, walking the plank and running the gauntlet) have been reported in the US and other countries, even though all hazing is officially illegal in many states.

The hazee may be humiliated by being hosed by sprinkler, buckets or hoses; covered with dirt or with (sometimes rotten) food, even urinated upon. Olive or baby oil may be used to "show off" the bare skin, for wrestling or just slipperiness, e.g., to complicate pole climbing. Cleaning may be limited to a dive into water, hosing down or even paddling the worst off. They may have to do tedious cleaning including swabbing the decks, cleaning the toilets with a toothbrush. In fraternities, pledges often must clean up a mess intentionally made by brothers which can include fecal matter, urine, and dead animals.

Servitude such as waiting on others (as at fraternity parties) or various other forms of housework, often with tests of obedience. In some cases, the hazee may be made to eat raw eggs, peppers, hot sauce, or drink too much alcohol. Some hazing even includes eating or drinking vile things such as bugs or rotting food.

The hazee may have to wear an imposed piece of clothing, outfit, item or something else worn by the victim in a way that would bring negative attention to the wearer. Examples include a uniform (e.g. toga, especially in Greek societies); a leash and/or collar (also associated with SM bondage); infantile and other humiliating dress and attire (e.g., diapers, underwear (sometimes of the opposite sex; sometimes wet to make it see-through) or a condom on the head); cross-dress or fake breasts; wearing just a box or a barrel; bunny costume; a phallus or dildo, even in explicitly homo-erotic poses. In some cases, the hazee may be completely or partially in a state of nudity (with or without cupping of the genitals). A variation in use in Germany is the "clothesline", i.e., contributing garments (usually remaining decent, e.g., in swim suit) to form a long line. In Sweden, gymnasium (high school, 16 to 19 years old) and university also use the clothes line. Girls strip to their thong, but may keep their bra on if they wish; boys are always expected to finish up naked, thus being jeered at and humiliated by the crowd. Holding lowered trousers, shorts and/or underwear up "revealingly".[citation needed]

Branding as fraternity initiation

Markings may also be made on clothing or bare skin. They are painted, written, tattooed or shaved on, sometimes collectively forming a message (one letter, syllable or word on each pledge) or may receive tarring and feathering (or rather a mock version using some glue) or branding. If half-naked, topless or with bare feet, the victim may be subjected to thorough and prolonged tickling until helpless with laughter.

Submission to the seniors is common. Abject "etiquette" required of pledges or subordinates may include prostration, kneeling, literal groveling, kissing/licking/washing/worshipping/massaging/rubbing/sucking/ body parts usually genitalia.

Other physical feats may be required, such as calisthenics and other physical tests, such as push-ups (sometimes a hazer keeps his/her foot on the pledges' back), jumping jacks (under near impossible conditions), sit-ups, mud wrestling, forming a human pyramid or dog piling, climbing a greased pole, skinny diving, leap-frog, human wheel-barrow etc., often with some twist. Exposure to the elements may be required, such as swimming or diving in cold water or snow. Degrading positions and tasks include being locked up in a cage or barrel, commanded to move on all fours or crawl on their bellies, eat or fetch "doggy style", kiss or urinate in public.

Orientation tests may be held, such as abandoning pledges far or fettered without transport, in the dark and/or in a public place. Dares include jumping from some height (bungee or in water), stealing from police or rival teams and obedience. Blood pinning among military aviators (and many other elite groups) to celebrate becoming new pilots by piercing their chests with the sharp pins of aviator wings.

On his first crossing the equator in military and commercial navigation, each "pollywog" (sailor; sometimes even passengers) is subjected to a series of endurances usually including running and/or crawling a gauntlet of abuse (soiling, paddling, etc.) and various scenes supposedly situated at King Neptune's court. A pledge auction is a variation on the slave auction, where people bid on the paraded (often exposed) pledges. It is held either as an open fund raiser where the general public (or just an invited sorority) can bid, or internally to decide which brother can impose his fantasies on which pledge. Sometimes, male pledges' prices depend on how little clothing the boy is allowed to wear. The "slaves" must do whatever the master orders, such as bringing drinks or preparing food.

The Happy Corner, known in Taiwan as aluba ("hitting the tree"), Hong Kong (as corning or being corned), and Norway (as "stolping", "poling" or "gjelling", "gelding"), involves rubbing a lifted boy's groin against a tree or pole. Treeing is binding up with ropes, chains, handcuffs or other means, to a tree or pole, or in some variations on a cross (mock crucifixion) wearing only a loincloth, underwear, a diaper, or sometimes even nothing at all, to be helplessly abused and/or bound.

The term tunnel seems to have various meanings in different traditions, such as a spanking tunnel or belt-line. It may be appealing as a symbolic rite of passage: one goes in as a rookie and emerges as something of a brother or teammate.

Hazing also occurs for apprentices in some trades. In printing, it consists of applying bronze blue to the apprentice's penis and testicles, a color made by mixing black printers ink and dark blue printers ink, which takes a long time to wash off. Similarly, mechanics get their groins smeared with old dirty grease.[citation needed]

Psychology, purpose, and role

Hazing often serves a deliberate purpose, of building solidarity. Psychologist Robert Cialdini uses the framework of consistency and commitment to explain the phenomenon of hazing, and the vigor and zeal to which practitioners of hazing persist in and defend these activities even when they are made illegal.[16] Cialdini cites a 1959 study in which the researchers observed that "persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort."[17]


Films where hazing plays an important part in the plot and/or constitutes a forceful scene include if...., Fraternity Row (film), National Lampoon's Animal House, Hell Night, Full Metal Jacket, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (female pledges paddled during initiation ritual), Dazed and Confused (high school freshmen are put through many rituals, including fake "air raids", being covered in food, spanked with a paddle, and forced to lie in a trucks bed while it goes through the car wash), A Few Good Men, The Lords of Discipline, The Skulls, Old School, Jarhead, The Good Shepherd".

In Followers, three friends want to pledge, but only the white ones are accepted, and must target their refused black friend. In the comedy National Lampoon's Pledge This! (2006), sorority president Paris Hilton forces her candidates to eat spoiled sushi, go on a used condom scavenger hunt, and walk around campus wearing diapers and baby bonnets. In Frat Brothers of the KVL (2007), a lacrosse team's excessively dangerous hazing leads to a fatality. W. (2008) about George W. Bush includes a hazing by members of a fictional fraternity.

Sydney White included varying forms of hazing. The film Igby Goes Down, about a cocky, bright young man's coming of age, begins with a blanket party ritual. In the Spike TV sitcom, Blue Mountain State, hazing is depicted among college football players throughout the series.

Isaac Asimov wrote a short story called The Hazing.

See also


  1. ^ "Pledge" is a common term for the initiation candidates; alternative terms include newbie, rookie, mainly in athletic teams, and freshman.
  2. ^ Quevedo - El Buscón
  3. ^ Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University. Volume 3 1678–1689., p. 303, http://books.google.com/books?id=MR05AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA303&lpg=PA303&dq=%22joseph+webb%22+harvard#PPR1,M1 
  4. ^ http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9A04E4DA1439E43BBC4F53DFB0668388669FDE&scp=92&sq=school+shooting&st=p
  5. ^ Army Command Policy AR 600-20 April 27, 2010
  6. ^ Stophazing.org
  7. ^ A View from Chechnya: An Assessment of Russian Counterinsurgency During the two Chechen Wars and Future Implications, p. 78, http://muir.massey.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10179/1804/02_whole.pdf;jsessionid=C9BC90145CBF36ED01677E1B5C4CF2FF?sequence=1 
  8. ^ Dr. Nadine C. Hoover, Alfred University, 1999.
  9. ^ The updated list of hazing deaths in colleges is at http://hazing.hanknuwer.com/listoflists.html
  10. ^ Catriona Davies (2005-11-28). "Police investigate video of beaten marine". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1504191/Police-investigate-video-of-beaten-marine.html. Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  11. ^ Allan, Elizabeth; Mary Madden (11 March 2008). "Hazing in View: College Students at Risk". University of Maine, College of Education and Human Development. http://www.hazingstudy.org/publications/hazing_in_view_web.pdf. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  12. ^ Drslawfirm.com
  13. ^ French Penal Code. Du Bizutage: articles 225-16-1 to 225-16-3
  14. ^ The Philippine Anti-Hazing Law. From the Virtual Library of the Chan Robles Law Office (a law firm based in the Philippines)
  15. ^ Inu Kencana, Whistleblower from IPDN
  16. ^ Robert Cialdini, Influence: Science and Practice, 4th Ed, Allyn & Bacon, 2001. (pp. 76-78)
  17. ^ Elliott Aronson, Judson Mills, "The effect of severity of initiation on liking for a group", Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol. 59, No. 2, Sep. 1959, pp. 177-181.

Further reading

  • Thwing, C.F., "College Hazing", Scribners Monthly, Vol.17, No.3, (January 1879), pp. 331–334.

External links

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  • hazing — noun An initiation or behavior that involves humiliation, harassment or abuse, particularly in universities and in the military …   Wiktionary

  • hazing — haz|ing [ heızıŋ ] noun uncount AMERICAN the practice of making people do strange, difficult, and sometimes dangerous things in order to become a member of a group, especially a FRATERNITY at a university …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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