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I was checking out tags earlier and noticed a relatively new one, . This appears to have been created a couple weeks ago and has been used on 6 questions so far.

We also have an older tag, , which has been used on 8 questions so far.

"Coworker" is defined as:

one who works with another : a fellow worker

"Colleague" is defined as:

an associate or coworker typically in a profession or in a civil or ecclesiastical office and often of similar rank or state : a fellow worker or professional

So, they seem like they are basically synonyms to me. Since "colleague" is slightly more broad (including peers, not just people in your immediate ), I suggest making a synonym of .

What do you think? Is there any significant difference, or can these be made synonyms?

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  • 3
    I for one prefer coworkers to be the main tag. – NVZ Mar 1 '18 at 20:52
  • @NVZ write an answer for votes? – Em C Mod Mar 2 '18 at 14:29
  • I was about to ask this very same question. Since I the majority agreed for the synonym, I think it's time to make it happen (I can't create the synonym request myself, I don't have enough rep on this tag :/ ) – Ael Dec 2 '18 at 19:52
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I've done a quick run-through of the questions on each tag, and my recommendation is to merge into .


Firstly, the two tags have grown since this question was posted. is now twice the size of with 22 questions against 12.


More importantly, the meaning of the tags has no obvious difference in the questions asked so far. Every single question is able to fit into without losing any meaning. See below:

How could I talk to a coworker about my feeling of being left out by the team?
uses coworker in title

How do I talk to a work friend about their constant no-shows for catch-ups?
talks about people on different team

Dealing with colleagues who think single women as being always available
uses colleague to mean general "people in my office"

Dealing with coworker who is excessively self-deprecating
uses coworker in title

How to stop a colleague from talking to me about work when I'm on my lunch break
contains nothing specific to being in the same departement

How to tell a colleague to take care of how he looks
talks about somebody in a more junior position

How to tell a colleague to not drink water from my bottle
not specific to being the same level/position

Invitation for dinner refused with a strange reason
talking about somebody junior

How do I get my colleagues to turn the radio off?
talking about somebody not directly working with them

Should I reply to the email or just leave it?
talking about their supervisor's colleague, i.e. a coworker of theirs

How to avoid wishing my coworker on her birthday?
uses coworker in the title

How to interact with a colleague if you understand only 5% of what he says?
talking about somebody who works in a different sector


The minor differentiation in meaning that other answers have made so far, is not relevant to the questions that have been asked so far - or the answers they will recieve.

For questions that involve an equal relationship, or one that is imbalanced, these kind of clarifying details are required in the body text already - so the tag does not clear this up.

Worse, many people do not see a distinction between coworker and colleague - so relying on this for having two tags means we will have more incorrectly tagged questions.

Again, as coworkers is technically broader, and all colleagues questions can fit into it without modification - I recommend merging.

1

I was ready to jump on board, and still am if the community agrees on it, but do have a concern (which maybe is just related to my understanding of English).

I foresee we could run into possible issues/contention when there is a question pertaining to a coworker who one wouldn't necessarily call a colleague...

For instance, I'm a programmer and I have an issue with the head of HR. The head of HR is a coworker, but not a colleague to me (at least, how I understand). We aren't equals, we don't perform comparable job tasks, and we don't have similar ranks or states in the company.

I would prefer to use in this case, because I wouldn't refer to someone who is clearly above me in a different department a colleague. should be for people who are equivalent in a knowledge base, or as by definition states "of equal rank or state".

Edit: These words aren't synonyms, they just have some overlapping room. It's a similar scenario to how a square always meets the definition of a rectangle, but a rectangle does not always meet the definition of a square. If someone wants to ask a question about a square, they could tag it as a rectangle and still be correct. However, you wouldn't tag a question about a rectangle that doesn't have equal sides with the square tag, because this would be inaccurate.

Even still with and , one is not completely encompassed by the other (as is with rectangles and squares), which is why I say "NAY, good sir!"

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  • If the final result is that coworkers becomes a synonym for colleagues and a question posts that has the relationship you describe there are other ways to convey the information. The tag can be left off, and work-environment can be used instead. There need not be any issue or contention about it on the question. – User27 Mar 2 '18 at 17:31
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    FWIW a colleague is not necessarily a coworker either. Other programmers I know I often refer to as colleagues, yet I don't work with them, nor know where some of them work at all. – User27 Mar 2 '18 at 17:37
  • @WitanapDanu So if the tags aren't interchangeable then they really aren't synonyms of each other, are they? – Jess K. Mar 2 '18 at 17:38
  • Hence my vote, and answer, against the proposal. Yet, I can still use the site if it happens. And neither completely includes the other. More like an intersection of sets rather than a superset and subset. – User27 Mar 2 '18 at 17:40
  • @WitanapDanu Oh, yes, for certain. I was misunderstanding your comment as reason why you disagree with my answer above. But you are correct. We can work around it if absolutely necessary. – Jess K. Mar 2 '18 at 17:41
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While both words aren't perfect synonyms they are too similar for them both to be tags. There are far too many situations where coworker and colleague will work interchangeably.

We should figure out how many questions we have tagged colleague that shouldn't be retagged coworker. Once we know how many questions we have that don't fit the coworker tag we can see if there is a commonality between them that suggests to us a distinct tag that can be used for them that doesn't overlap so heavily with the coworker.

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I think that the tags should remain as separate tags. implies a work environment, and may include the "culture" of that location as well. may include coworkers yet not include the office environment, or include the office environment and people in it, yet the people involved in the instant question may not be actual coworkers of the OP, just people in the office. is probably almost always a subset of from the involved parties, yet carries connotations that does not.

We shouldn't synonymize and even though one is a subset of the other. Neither should these be synonymized.

Edit:

My supervisor, or a someone I supervise would be a coworker, not a colleague.

An electrician on the job site where I am a plumber, working for different contractors would be a coworker, and maybe not a colleague.

Someone in the same position as me at another company, even the competition, could be a colleague, but definitely not a coworker.

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  • Hm, but we have the tag "work-environment" to denote that information. Plus, coworkers could also include remote workers not in the immediate work environment. Can you give an example of "people in the office" that you would consider colleagues, but not coworkers? – Em C Mod Mar 1 '18 at 18:59
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    @EmC When I was a Perl coder, I considered a couple of the graphic designers as colleagues. I seldom had any work-related interaction, but lots of extra-curricular association. – User27 Mar 1 '18 at 21:21
  • I see. I don't think that's significant enough to need a separate tag, since I'd expect questions to include detail about the exact nature of the relationship in the body text. But, that is my opinion, thanks for sharing yours :) – Em C Mod Mar 2 '18 at 14:29
  • @EmC My thoughts only. I don't imagine the site will fail under either choice. I only see tow of the questions in colleagues, here and here, that might not fit in coworkers. Certainly not enough to break the system. I can live with either choice, whatever the general consensus becomes. – User27 Mar 2 '18 at 17:20
  • Oops, I have it backwards. I guess it proves your point. Those questions are what I'd call coworkers and not colleagues. – User27 Mar 2 '18 at 17:30
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I don't think there is a significant difference in the meaning of the word.

But there is one significant difference. For people like me who have problems with spelling words correctly "Coworker" is so much easier to write and spell compared to "Colleague".

I think "Colleague" and that would be the word I would use when I talk to people. But I write "Coworker" to avoid spelling mistakes.

I am pretty sure I am not alone with this problem. I think the meaning is the same and I support your suggestion.

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