Social - socialist - sociable - socialite

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Although these words come from the same source - the noun 'society' - they have very different meanings, and must not be confused.

  • Socialist is an adjective describing a political belief or theory, usually of the Left. (The Right wing German party led by Adolf Hitler also called itself socialist - the National Socialist, or Nazi, party.) It can also be a noun naming a person who holds the belief. Characteristically, socialists believe that everything else, particularly individuals, must serve the wider society, or state; they often believe that the state should own all economic activity.
  • Social simply means 'to do with society', and is used very widely. Professionals who work with unfortunate members of our society are social workers; people who study how humans behave are social anthropologists; a busy rich person may have a social secretary to arrange such social events as receptions, parties, and dinners. A socialist worker, on the other hand, is somebody with a job who believes in the public ownership of industries; or - punctuated Socialist Worker - is a politically motivated newspaper in Britain. A socialist anthropologist would be a student of human beings, either their physical characteristics (an anthropologist) or their societies (a social anthropologist) who shared such left-wing ideas. A socialist secretary is a personal assistant with certain political beliefs.
  • There is also a word sociable, which means roughly 'friendly', or 'gregarious': a sociable person is one who is good company, amusing and entertaining (or a good listener) at social events in such places as pubs.
  • A socialite is a person conspicuous by reason of their prominent position in high society and presence at fashionable parties and similar social occasions.