The Key

Recognized as one of the nation's most distinctive symbols, the Phi Beta Kappa key traces its origin to the time of the American Revolution. In 1776, a group of students at the College of William and Mary created the emblem to represent their secret "philosophical society." For over 200 years, the key has proclaimed Phi Beta Kappa's commitment to the following statement: "The love of wisdom is the guide of Life."

Over time, the Society extended to additional top colleges and universities, and as such, the key became a universally recognized mark of academic achievement in the liberal arts and sciences. The pointing finger on the key portrays the wearer's commitment to Phi Beta Kappa's ancient principles (represented in the three stars)- friendship, morality, and learning.

Members may order a key or other items with the key insignia from