The Cube surrounded by autumn leaves

Being a member of the U-M community, as in any culture, means knowing the language - the verbal shorthand. That's what this page is all about.

The Arb

Nickname for the Nichols Arboretum, a 123-acre "living museum" featuring overlooks and trails through woods and fields, including a stroll along the Huron River. The Arb's collection of Michigan native plants and plants from around the world make it a beautiful place to visit in any season.

The Arch

The archway through West Hall at the southeast corner of the Diag, also known as the Engineering Arch (from days gone by when the College of Engineering was located on the U-M Central Campus).

Big Blues

The name campus bus drivers and many students use to refer to campus buses.

The Big House

The Michigan Stadium is the largest college football stadium in the country. Following renovations made in 2010, the capacity of the stadium is now 109,901. By tradition, the seating capacity at the stadium always ends with a "1." The extra seat is said to be in honor of Fritz Crisler. (Read about the history of the Big House.)

Bo’s Barn

The nickname for Oosterbaan Field House, which is the home field for U-M’s Lacrosse teams and serves as a practice field for U-M’s football, field hockey, baseball, softball and intramural sports teams.


The nickname for Bursley residence hall on North Campus.

The Cube

Just to the north of the Michigan Union (in Regent's Plaza) is "The Cube," by artist Bernard Rosenthal. See also "Spin the Cube."

The Diag

The large area enclosed by campus buildings had humble beginnings: pasture and outhouses. Students used it as a shortcut and cut a diagonal swath in the pasture with their incessant steps. While students may relieve themselves there from time to time, the Diag is a common area in which students meet. Heed the advice of students: "Don’t step on the M."

The Dude

The James and Anne Duderstadt Center, formerly the Media Union, opened in 1996 as a special place to provide faculty and students with the tools and collaborative space for creating the future. Located on the University of Michigan North Campus, the Duderstadt Center houses the Art, Architecture, and Engineering Library, the College of Engineering Computer Aided Engineering Network (CAEN), the Digital Media Commons, and the Millennium Project. The Mujo Cafe provides a space for refreshment and social interaction.

The Fish

Ray Fisher Stadium, the home of Wolverine baseball.

The Fishbowl

The glassed-in area facing the Diag where Angell, Haven and Mason Halls meet.

Football Saturdays

Los Angeles has its ozone alerts, and Ann Arbor has its Football Saturday, when the town is flooded with football fans from far and wide. Townies know to avoid the area's traffic backups and they pay attention to when the game starts; the city streets and freeways out of town are generally guaranteed safe from pileups for three-and-a-half hours once the game commences.


This deep-fried Ann Arbor specialty was a favorite on U-M’s campus for many years.

The Grad Library

The Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library.

The Half Ass

A cafe/hangout/music and poetry venue located in the lower level of the Residential College, also known as the Halfway Inn.

The Halo

In 1998, Michigan Stadium was renovated and expanded. Six rows of seats accommodating an additional 5000 fans were added around the top of the stadium. The new seating area was surrounded by a yellow parapet bearing familiar Michigan icons, including the winged helmet and university seal, and lyrics from "The Victors." This yellow parapet was nicknamed "The Halo" and was cited by many as departing from the traditional style of the venerated stadium. It has since been removed.

The Hill

A campus "neighborhood" of residence halls, adjacent to the Medical Center, including Couzens Hall, Alice Lloyd Hall, Mary Markley Hall, Mosher-Jordan Hall, Oxford Housing, and Stockwell Hall.

Michigan Time

The tradition of starting every class, meeting or event 10 minutes late.


The nickname for the Mosher-Jordan residence hall located in the Hill/Observatory area.

The Mud Bowl

Since the 1930s, the grassy area at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house at the corner of Washtenaw and South University has been turned into a mud pit to host this event on the Saturday afternoon of Homecoming Weekend. Crowds of onlookers assemble to watch two rival fraternities duke it out in the dirtiest football game you'll ever see! In addition, two sororities play each other during halftime.


The ground floor food court in the Michigan Union.

Nat Sci

The Natural Science Building, designed by architect Albert Kahn and completed in 1915, which originally housed the departments of Botany, Geology, Mineralogy, Zoology, Psychology and the School of Natural Resources.


M-speak for New Employee Orientation.

The Pringle

Part of the Medical School, the ultramodern Biomedical Science Research Building Auditorium (located on Zina Pitcher Place), with its undulating, sloped roof is affectionately known around campus as Pringle Auditorium.

The Pumas

Legend has it that if you pass the Pumas flanking the entrance to the Museum of Natural History as a freshman and they do not roar, you are no longer a virgin (applies to men and women). (Submitted by Aviva Pinto, class of '83)

The Rock

The painted rock at the corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Hill Street. If you go by it on your way to the store, it will have been painted something different by the time you make your return trip.

Spin the Cube

Refers to pushing the The Cube, so that it spins on its axis. Watch that its corner doesn't whack you in the head on its way back around!

Stepping on the M

The brass M set in the center of the Diag was donated by the University's Class of 1953. Ever since then, students have made a tradition of avoiding stepping on it. The most common superstition says that if you step on the M, you will fail your first exam at Michigan.


The nickname for South Quadrangle dormitory, located on central campus. One of U-M’s largest dorms and home to over 1000 students.

The Toaster

This curved-cornered, black and stainless steel edifice located on North Campus is home to the UMHS North Campus Administrative Complex.


Nickname of the Undergraduate Library (Undergraduate = UG, Library = LI), also known as the Shapiro Undergraduate Library. Also sometimes known as the SNUGLI—though where the "N" came from, nobody knows!

The V-Bell

The V-Bell (Village Bell) was where you celebrated "your bell" on your 18th birthday, back in the day. You drank 18 beers, one for each birthday. A large cutout of a bell was made in cardboard and everyone present signed it as a memento. The tradition changed to 21 beers when the drinking age changed to 21. (Submitted by Aviva Pinto, class of '83)

Virgin Vaults

The then all-women's Stockwell, Barber, Cook and Newberry residences were called Virgin Vaults by those in the know. (Submitted by Aviva Pinto, class of '83)

The Well

The nickname for Stockwell Hall, a dormitory named after the first woman to be admitted to the university, Madelon Louisa Stockwell.

Wine’s Mud Hole

The nickname for Wine’s Field House (before it was paved), where the U-M marching band rehearsed. Renamed by band director George Cavender in the 70s, the practice field is known today as Elbel Field.


The nickname for Wolverine Tower, located south of campus at State and Eisenhower, houses a number of university business units including University Human Resources, Finance, Office of University Development and others.

Know of a UM-ism not listed here? Let us know.