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Tag wiki excerpt:

Questions regarding the people one works with. This includes questions about communication, teamwork, or other issues caused by ones co-workers.

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No tag wiki excerpt.

The meaning of coworker and colleague was discussed on ELL with the top answer stating that a coworker works at the same company, a colleague either at the same company or in the same profession / industry. But judging from the answers, not everyone quite agrees and it seems to be a subtle difference only.

When glancing through the questions, the words are used interchangeably (e. g. calling them colleague / coworker and tagging it coworker / colleague). Even 's tag wiki excerpt contains "co-worker".

This leads to two questions:

  1. Is this difference enough to warrant two distinct tags?
  2. (If yes) Have the differences been taken into account by OPs?

Are and synonyms?

If not, the tag wiki excerpts should reflect that.

  • Great question!
    – David K
    Nov 29, 2018 at 13:30
  • 1
    Within the context of The Workplace, there is no real difference between those two terms. Nov 29, 2018 at 16:09

1 Answer 1


No one is going to know the difference, just make them synonyms.

I think there is a subtle difference between a coworker and a colleague, but as you said, not everyone agrees on what exactly that difference is. Add that with the fact that we have a lot of non-native English speakers here, there is no way we would be able to get people to use them consistently, even if we think the two terms are different. I think we can save ourselves a lot of headaches by just merging the two. I don't think it's super important which term we make as the primary tag.

As SaggingRufus points out it probably makes more sense to have be the primary, since it is the broader term. Every co-worker is a colleague, but not all colleagues are co-workers.


I've just discovered that users can vote on synonyms and have them automatically changed. You can vote on this one here.

  • 1
    I agree the difference is so subtle that it really would not change an answer. Based on the answer from ELL maybe make co-worker the primary as "every co-worker is a colleague, but not every colleague is a co-worker". So make the broader one the primary. Then if someone knows the difference and it actually matters, they can use the more specific. Nov 29, 2018 at 14:06
  • @SaggingRufus By that logic, do you mean to make colleague the primary, since it is the broader term?
    – David K
    Nov 29, 2018 at 14:09
  • yep, I mixed that up. Nov 29, 2018 at 14:15
  • 3
    lol it was I who suggested that synonym request months ago :o) ... was starting to worry that I couldn't vote on it
    – DarkCygnus Mod
    Nov 30, 2018 at 17:54

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