Distinguishing Social from Societal Differences

Social vs Societal

Social is a commonly used term in the English language, originating from the Latin word socii, meaning allies. It refers to the world around us and our interactions and coexistence with other humans. Humans are often referred to as social animals, as they cannot live in isolation. The term “social” has led to many studies and concepts relating to human society and interactions. Societal is another term that may seem similar to social but is used mainly by writers and sociologists. While there are similarities between the two words, they are not synonymous.


Social is often associated with issues such as social justice, social equality, and so on. The great philosopher and sociologist Karl Marx described humans as social beings who thrived on interaction and cooperation and could not survive alone. The field of sociology is mostly about human society and aims to understand the effects of interactions and relationships on both the society and its individual members.

In more recent times, the term “social” has come to imply matters concerning common people, leading to concepts such as social values, social policies, and the social fabric of society. Social is often contrasted with private life or affairs of individuals, while the term “antisocial” is used to describe people and activities that are disruptive and potentially harmful to society.


Societal is an older English term that has gained popularity in recent decades. It is mostly used by authors and philosophers and refers to anything relating or pertaining to society. The term is often used to discuss societal values, societal changes, societal threats, and so on. However, societal has a more restrictive meaning than social and is primarily used in the context of society.

Key Takeaways

  • Social and societal both derive from the Latin word socii, meaning allies.
  • Social has many connotations and uses, such as social values, social justice, and social inequality, while societal is more focused on matters pertaining to society.
  • Societal is mostly used by authors and sociologists, while social is a more commonly used term by the general public.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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