Social versus societal


English: This is a diagram of societal develop...

English: This is a diagram of societal development that encapsulates the stage of human development: hunter/gatherer, pastoralist/horticulturalist, agrarian, industrial, and post-industrial. It also ties those stage of development to the important consequences of societal development, namely: surplus, denser populations, specialization, and inequality. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


What’s the difference betweensocial and societal? Not much, but enough that you may become the victim of social stigma if you ignore subtle societal signals.


Societal is the pedantic alternative to social. They both mean “pertaining to society,” but as the latter word, first attested in the Middle Ages, was increasingly used in the modern era to refer to interpersonal contact rather than in the context of complex forces within human populations, societal appeared in the latter part of the nineteenth century as a more serious, scholarly alternative. It is mostly seen in such usage and is otherwise considered pretentious.


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