The Ivy League is an athletic conference of eight private universities in the Northeast; during the first half of the 1900s they played each other frequently. By the 1930s they were informally referred informally as the "Ivy League," but the organization was not formalized until 1954.
By extension, the term also refers to the eight schools considered as a group, and to social characteristics perceived to be common to the group. The schools of the Ivy League are all old—all but Cornell having been founded before the American Revolution. The are all stellar in academics, and all of them have a traditional connection with social prestige. Six of them were founded as Protestant institutions (Penn and Cornell were founded as nondenominational).