Collegial vs. Collegiate

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What’s the difference between collegial and collegiate? Both words, and the root word college and the related term colleague, stem from the Latin word collega, meaning “colleague.” But for the most part, collegial refers to a state of mind, while collegiate is a more concrete adjective.

A colleague is one with whom one works or interacts in a profession, a government office, or a religious environment, and though collegial can refer to the sharing of authority or power among colleagues in both religious and secular contexts, the primary connotation is a value-laden one of camaraderie. However, it is sometimes employed as a synonym for a specific sense of collegiate.

That word’s primary usage is in reference to college students or their activities; sports contests between teams representing different colleges or universities, for example, are referred to as intercollegiate athletics. Collegiate, however, also refers to a certain type of religious entity mentioned below.

College itself usually refers to an institution of higher learning, either in the sense of a building or a campus of buildings and other facilities or in the sense of its students, faculty, and administration. A college may be a traditional liberal arts institution or may specialize in professional, technical, or vocational subject areas, such as a business college.

The term is also used to refer to a constituent part of a university, often consisting of multiple departments offering courses of study in the same general area, such as a college of sciences. Often, when colleges expand so much that they are subdivided for administrative and educational efficiency, they change their status to that of a university. (That word derives from the Latin term for universe; meanwhile, varsity, a shortening and alteration of university, is British English slang for university and refers in general to the primary squad on a school athletic team or, occasionally, in another competitive endeavor.

Other uses of the term college are for a group of clergy members living and working together, for any body of people with the same interests or goals, or, most familiarly, in the phrase “electoral college,” referring to a group of people selected to elect a person for a political office.

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2 thoughts on “Collegial vs. Collegiate”

  1. I’m still in the dark about the complete meaning of collegial (a state of mind). Even my trusty spell checker is having difficulty with the word, offering collegiate, collegiality and elegiacal in its place.
    Additionally, you seem to have tracked off into a discussion of the word college. Was that your intention when you began the piece? Did you intend to omit the simplest college that comes quickly to mind, the College of Cardinals.
    In any eventuality, would you again take up your cudgel and attempt to provide one or two concrete examples differentiating collegiate from collegial. I suppose one could say that a collegial atmosphere is evident among the College of Cardinals. However, that statement seems somewhat circular to me.

    Best regards,


  2. Dave:

    As I mentioned, “the primary connotation [of collegial] is a value-laden one of camaraderie.” Also, in all the posts in which I compare two similar-looking words, I discuss other related terms, too, as I’ve done with college here.

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