PHI SIGMA IOTA was founded in 1922 in Allegheny College by Dr. Henry W. Church, members of his department of languages, and advanced students, who used to meet to discuss linguistic and literary matters.  It became a national society when Beta Chapter was established at the Pennsylvania State University in April 1925, followed less than a year after by Gamma Chapter at The College of Wooster.  With these three Chapters as the nucleus of the national organization, the first Convention was held in May 1929, at Allegheny College.  Since that time expansion has been steady.

     In November 1935, PHI SIGMA IOTA was merged with Alpha Zeta Pi, a similar society west of the Mississippi.  The merger was effected at a National Convention held at Bloomington, Illinois.  Alpha Zeta Pi, the older of the two societies, was organized in October 1917, at the University of Denver by Dr. Etienne Renaud and his associates in the Department of Languages.

     In 1949, PHI SIGMA IOTA was voted membership into the U.S.A. Association of College Honor Societies, the first language society to receive that honor.

     Every year PHI SIGMA IOTA awards several scholastic grants to its members.  The first scholarship was established in 1939 in memory of the founder and first National President, Dr. Church.  In 1970, another scholarship was established in memory of Dr. Anthony S. Corbiere, who for nearly thirty years was National Historian, Editor of the Newsletter, and Executive Secretary of PHI SIGMA IOTA.

     In 1978, under the Presidency of Dr. Santiago Vilas, the Society expanded into the National Foreign Language Honor Society PHI SIGMA IOTA to honor outstanding achievements in any foreign language including Classics, Philology, Applied Linguistics, Comparative Literature, and Bilingual Education.

     In 1982, the Society became the International Foreign Languages Honor Society by installing it first Chapter in a foreign country (Universidad Regiomontana, Monterrey, Mexico).

     In 1988, the Department of Languages and Communication at Cameron University was granted a Charter to form the first chapter of PHI SIGMA IOTA in the State of Oklahoma, the Delta Rho Chapter.