social v. societal

englishman

Senior Member
English England
I've always considered "societal" to be an unpleasant abomination of a word, which should always be replaced with the word "social" - however, I'm willing to be convinced that there's a need for "societal".

Is there any real difference in meaning between the two ? Examples welcome.
 
  • river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    According to the dictionary, these words sound very similar: Social - concerned with the mutual relations of human beings. Sounds like of society. Societal - relating to or dealing with society. Sounds like of society.

    I hear of societal influences or concerns, but it seems social would work there too.
     

    ullex

    Member
    English--USA
    Social seems more limited than societal; Or, perhaps, only more particular. A social interaction is gernally more limited (comparable to interpersonal encounters, even), while a societal interaction is an interaction with a society on a bigger level (such as mass interactions). Synonyms for societal include nationwide, vernacular, and widespread. Synonyms for social, however, are common, neighborly, familiar, and the like.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    Hi there :)
    I was wondering what is the difference between:

    a. societal norms
    b. social norms

    or

    c. societal behavior/life/disease etc.
    d. social behavior/life/disease etc.

    To me, each sentence means the same as its corresponding sentence in each set.
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Hi there :)
    I was wondering what is the difference between:

    a. societal norms
    b. social norms
    With no context and no sentences (corresponding or otherwise), I would take phrase a. to mean the norms related to an entire society and phrase b. to be the norms for social (interpersonal) interaction.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    With no context and no sentences (corresponding or otherwise), I would take phrase a. to mean the norms related to an entire society and phrase b. to be the norms for social (interpersonal) interaction.
    Hi Myridon
    Thank you very much. I got the point. :)
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    "Societal" means "of a society". Each society has many characteristics. Those things vary drastically between different societies (different cultures) on earth. Is the staple food wheat noodles, wheat bread, or rice? What is the clothing like?

    To me, "social" is more local. It is about how people interact in one sub-section of one society. For example there are different "social rules" and "social norms" for upper-crust people (the rich and famous), for street bums, for college students, for blue-coller manual laborers, and for white-coller office workers. That is 5 sets of "social rules/norms", just in one country (one society).
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    'Societal' strikes me as a learned/academic word: I only come across it in serious writing. I have never heard it in a conversation. 'Social' sounds like an ordinary word.
     
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    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    'Societal' strikes me as a learned/academic word: I only come across it in serious writing. I have never heard it in a conversation. 'Social' sounds like an ordinary word.
    But sound shift, I wonder if "social" can be used always instead of "societal".
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I've always considered "societal" to be an unpleasant abomination of a word, which should always be replaced with the word "social"
    1959 Sunday Times 22 Nov. 16/4 His [sc. Kipling's] passion..for the values of what D. H. Lawrence (borrowing the revolting word from Dr. Trigant Burrow) called ‘societal man’.

    It is not possible to replace societal with social and maintain the same meaning.
    I wonder if "social" can be used always instead of "societal".
    You will see that this is not possible.

    Social implies the interactions between members of society.
    Societal implies the composite action of society as a whole.
     
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