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a quick and dirty guide to MIT jargon by Amber V. '24

what is a 6-3 anyway?

You may have noticed that everything in this institvte is named by either an acronym or a number. There’s a quirky language to MIT, a handful of words we made up and toss at each other — here are a few you may hear around campus here at CPW!


  1. glossary: a random assortment of words you may hear
  2. majors, minors, and class names
  3. further reading

a random assortment of words you may hear:

cruft: 1. n literally, ‘junk.’ More specifically, cool junk that MIT students snatch and hoard away, typically lab equipment and electronics found on reuse or at Stata loading docks.

2. v the act of finding cruft and hoarding it

3. n MIT alums

hack, punt, tool: 1. n old MIT saying about what MIT students do on the day-to-day. Hack = hacking, of course; punt = punting work, playing; tool = working. “I’m gonna be tooling in Hayden tonight.” 

2. n eponymous musical about MIT culture

HASS: n Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; used to refer to any non-technical class. “I’m taking .006, 18.03, 8.02, and a hass class.”

hosed: adj the state of being exhausted, overworked, drained, etc. etc. “Man, I am so hosed.” See also: firehose.

firehosen “An MIT education is like drinking from a firehose,” or so the saying goes. The firehose is the constant barrage of work everyone gleefully puts upon themselves.

IHTFP: An acronym for MIT life. Either “I hate this fucking place” or “I have truly found paradise,” as the mood suits you.

internshipn at MIT “getting an internship” refers specifically to getting an internship at a company external to MIT. Research positions within MIT are referred to as UROPs.

psetn problem set; one per class, 5-8 problems, due weekly, takes forever. They say that you cannot start them the day they are due, although empirical testing shows this is not entirely true. Also written ‘p-set.’

UROP: 1. n Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, as in doing research.

2. n an undergrad in a lab doing research. So you’re the new urop?”

3. n the work assigned by your urop (see definition 1). “Sorry, I would, but I’ve gotta do my urop.”

4. v working in a urop. “This summer I’m uroping in an EAPS lab.”

Majors, minors, and classes

Every academic department has its own number, and we refer to majors and minors by their numbers. This honestly obfuscates information until you sit down and memorize the list. The departments are numbered up to 24, but here are the most common majors:

6-3: computer science. Here, 6 is the major, and 3 is the track within the major — it doesn’t refer to course 3, which is materials science. 6-1 is electrical engineering, 6-2 is EECS (electrical engineering and computer science), and 6-3 is straight CS. 6-3 is the most common major at MIT.

18-C: applied math (flex option).

6-9: computer science and neuroscience. 9 is the neuroscience department, so in this case 6 and 9 both refer to departments.

7: biology.

8: physics.

2A: MechE (flex option). The full name is 2A-X, X being your concentration. It can be department you can argue is related to your major; common choices are 2A-6 (comp sci), 2A-4 (design), and 2A-3 (materials science). Most MechEs are 2A; those in course 2 who don’t take the flex path are ‘straight 2,’ cue jokes.


We also refer to people as their majors. For example, “What course are you?” could be answered “6-3,” “I’m a 6-3,” or, rarely, “CS.”

Here is a full list of departments, linked to their respective course catalogs:

Class names

If you’ve clicked on any of those links, you may have noticed that each class has a specific number. We typically refer to technical classes by their numbers, rather than by their names. For example, ‘Fundamentals of Programming’ is numbered 6.009 [“six double-oh nine”], and I cannot say for certain if I have ever heard it referred to in words. People say “.009” or sometimes “boog”.

The first number is the department; the numbers after the decimal bear some reference to the level of difficulty or order you should take the classes in. That pattern varies wildly by department, however, so I will not attempt to decode it.

When referring to a Course 6 class, sometimes people drop the 6; it’s just assumed. Generally people don’t do that with other departments, unless you’re talking to someone in your major.

Here are a few common classes you may hear about:

6.009: Fundamentals of Programming

6.006: [“six double oh six,” “double oh six,” occasionally “boob”] Introduction to Algorithms

6.036: [“six oh three six”] Introduction to Machine Learning

18.01: [“eighteen oh one”] calculus

18.02: multivariable calculus

18.03: differential equations

8.01: Physics I, classical mechanics

8.02: Physics II, electricity and magnetism

5.111: [“five eleven one”] intro chemistry

6.0001: [“six triple-oh-one”] intro to programming

3.091: [“three oh nine one”] intro to materials science

7.012 / .013 / .014 / .015 / .016: different intro biology classes

Further Reading

I likely didn’t catch all the jargon here, so check out this older and more thorough blogpost if you’d like to see more!

Speaking in MITese

Then go out and enjoy CPW :D