What's the difference between social and societal? Are they perfectly synonymous? If not, what is the difference in nuance?
The relevant definition of social reads:
relating to society or its organization
The only definition of societal is:
relating to society or social relations
NGrams suggests that the word had its origins in the early 20th century and gained in popularity after the 1950s. Why did the use of societal crop up? Was it perhaps it is the more obvious and natural adjective of society? If it is used to disambiguate or distance away from certain connotations of social, what are they?
According to COCA, societal, while largely used in academia, also sees significant use in magazines and newspapers. It also convincingly outscores social when collocated with terms such as shift and estrangement. On the other hand, the use of societal worker, societal service, societal justice etc., do not register on COCA's scales.