Confusing Words – Social or Sociable?

In these days of social distancing, I realized I would like to know more about the difference between social and sociable. According to, “social people like going out and being with people, whereas sociable people are easy for others to get along with.” [Yes, the definition did end with a preposition🤨].

Social is also used for society-based words or activities, like social animals, social organizations, Social Security, and yes, social distancing. Most definitions I read agree that social definitely refers to something that relates to society or someone who enjoys being with other people. The definitions of sociable, on the other hand, varied from someone who likes to be with people (the same definition as social) to someone who other people enjoy, e.g. a friendly person.

My conclusion? I’m going to use social for people who like to be with other people and use sociable for people with whom other people like to be. Or maybe I’ll just use social for everything . . .😕

9 thoughts on “Confusing Words – Social or Sociable?”

  1. For the present , sociable seems to be the way to go…
    because no one is “going out and being with people “,
    and if we are stuck in the house it is good to be “easy for others to get along with”!

  2. I had a mistaken impression when I was younger that “social studies” would be doing things like speeches, charisma training, etc.

    I would definitely sign up for “sociable studies,” it seems like something that would compliment most other subjects today.

    • Thanks for your comment, Adam!
      I chuckled at your thought that “social studies” would teach students how to “be” social – it certainly makes sense, after reading the definitions of social.
      And I must say that I am completely in support of your idea for a “sociable studies” class. You are right about it being particularly apt for today.

  3. Not really social/sociable-related, but I want to ask about your comment on the definition of sociable ending with a preposition. I’ve seen some arguments on about whether or not it’s appropriate to do so, and now I’m confused about what is right or wrong. Care to clear it up for me?

    • Hi, Eric.
      Thank you for your comment. I am from the old school of never ending a sentence with a preposition. I understand that the rule requires some effort, creating what could sound like convoluted wording: “The professor to whom I gave credit,” instead of “The professor I gave credit to.” Seven words instead of six. In today’s world, shorter is better, eh?
      It seems that more and more grammar ‘rules’ are being tossed aside – in my opinion, because it’s easier to approve how people already talk than to expect people to make an effort to modify their language. I will be sad when there are no more rules, or guidelines, for speaking and writing. I will also be curious to see if misunderstandings increase if people are not following the same guidelines.

      • I’ve heard people say that you’re not supposed to end with a preposition, but I always thought that was a myth? Off the top of my head, the only rule would be to eliminate the preposition at the end if it’s redundant:
        “Where are you at?” can just be “Where are you” and mean the same thing.

        Some sentences, “What’s this movie about?” seems to flow better than “About what is this movie?” That sounds a little Shakespearean to me.

        • Well, heck. I think you, two, have convinced me I shouldn’t consider prepositions at the end of sentences to be in the same category as using “waiting on” instead of “waiting for” (although you will probably come up with some reason that “waiting on a train” is okay 🙄).
          Adam, I like your examples. I’ll try to let go about “about” at the end of a sentence. But, like you, I am holding on to eliminating the “at” at the end 😊.

  4. Can’t say I ever thought about the difference between social and sociable. Funny where our (read that to mean your) brains go sometimes. Not sure I have any distinct thoughts about the difference between the two words, but I do take slight issue with the term “social distancing.” While I understand it is a physical implication – meaning create distance between two people (or more), the more subtle implication, in my humble opinion, is that it encourages people to disconnect socially. I feel like it has such a negative connotation around it. We’re being encouraged to distance ourselves physically, not really socially. What about calling it “physically distance” instead of “social distance?” Do you think that changes its “aura?”

    • Physically distancing is so accurate and appropriate, why are we not saying that phrase instead of social distancing? Spot on, Camala! I will use those words from now on :).
      Especially because of your reasoning – that socially distancing yourself from others = anti-social!


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