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Question 1

When we have a certain number of people that share the same interest, do we refer to them as:

  1. interest group or
  2. community [sharing same interest]?

What would be preferred and more correct? Maybe there's a third option that would be even more appropriate for this context?

Question 2

The word group by itself can be associated with anything — people, things, etc. Community, on the other hand (as far as I know), is generally associated with people, right?

Question 3

When we use the term group, does it already imply a certain size or not? Is the word group used more frequently with smaller numbers or can a group's size be any number larger than two?

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6 Answers 6

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Well, when we say community, we refer to a large number of people or entities, who may be affiliated to many smaller or disparate sub-structures.Community almost always refers to a varied and large audience, yet with certain things, which maybe certain interests, opinions, or religion or ethnicity.

On the other hand, group is indeed most often used for a small number of people or other entities, each of which may or may not be large. Also, a group is not as natural a collection as community. A group maybe formed by some of us just now, but a community arises on its own and comes together, and has more naturally common attributes. Similarly, one can be expelled from a group, if he disrespects the rules, but one cannot be banned from a community per se, unless it is something very artificial like a virtual social networking aggregate that is moderated etc.

E.g. we talk about the international community of researchers of a certain field, say Physics, or the international community of institutional investors (each of which is an institution like a bank and consists of millions of people), whereas we say G8- a group of nations.

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That's about Q3, then. –  Kris Feb 18 '12 at 12:18
Dictionaries do not seem to indicate any size connotations for either of the words. –  Kris Feb 18 '12 at 12:22
well, u already answered Q1 when I saw, and Q2. could be left as an exercise. So. :) –  karthik Feb 18 '12 at 12:24
Dictionaries may not always comment on usage. Would you like to call a group of 3 a community? or, a 200 people among 300 a group? –  karthik Feb 18 '12 at 12:26
Amazon.com: CLAUDETTE COLBERT in "A Community of Two..." amazon.com/CLAUDETTE-COLBERT-Community-Jerome-Chodorov/dp/… -- I have not read this. –  Kris Feb 18 '12 at 12:29

community or interest group.

Not interest community.

Essentially, group is a non-specific collection while community has a commonality among its members. That is the reason group requires the adjective 'interest' and community does not.

You could think of a community as a group defined by locale/ common interest/ feature/ ancestry, etc. Btw, community is currently the buzzword.

Q2 Neither group nor community is necessarily associated with people as such. However, community is generally applicable to animate objects only, group to 'things' of all descriptions.

Q3 While group by itself does not have connotations of a small size, we have other words to refer to collections to suggest a large size, so that we do not usually see group used for large collections.

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AD3: Which other words would that be? Can you edit your answer and add a few examples? –  Robert Koritnik Feb 18 '12 at 13:24
@Robert Koritnik: To quote Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant a bigger group can be an organization - and if it's really big - "friends, they may think it's a movement" –  FumbleFingers Feb 18 '12 at 14:24
Kris, I suggest you add locale to "interest/ feature/ ancestry" list, and expand Btw. Note, "community is currently the buzzword" is content-free unless you say in what context. –  jwpat7 Feb 19 '12 at 15:51

One aspect is not just size, but strength of relation. When I hear community, I think either a natural occurring community of people who live near each other, or an intentional community of people who share many beliefs about how they want to live their lives, rather than a group having only a singular interest in common. Thus, the nuns who live down the road from me, though only numbering 8, is a community, and my town, which numbers in the thousands, is a community, whereas to me ELU is a group. Certainly, there are occasions when both could be used, and there some where neither would apply; I wouldn't call my church congregation either term.

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"to me ELU is a group" -- why might it be so, any thoughts? –  Kris Feb 19 '12 at 8:05
just as you say: "To me..." makes this answer rather subjective doesn't it? I was much more after grammatical correctness. –  Robert Koritnik Feb 19 '12 at 12:15
Yes, I agree I was being subjective. Either is grammatically correct. I would use them differently, though, and I thought that was what you were after. –  Julia Feb 19 '12 at 23:51

SIG - Special Interest Group is common.

Just to add to the befuddlement, there is also neighborship.

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members of a group know each other, whether it is a small or large group. but it is not so in case of community.

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Could you, please, post any references to back up your claim. –  Mari-Lou A Sep 26 '13 at 7:27

People who share a common interest or passion tend to form or join clubs, rather than groups. Another name for this type of interest group is association, which has an official sound to it and sounds more authoritarian.

For example; a book club is a group of people who exchange with each other their passion and thoughts on literature (general speaking). A [sports/activity] club is a group of people who regularly meet and practice their chosen sport or activity together.

Would we then say the people who belong to a club make up a community? Not really, although members who start off as being strangers to one other can, over time, build close relationships and feel a common bonding between themselves. Community is an interesting word, it can be countable as in the many Polish communities in the UK or it can be uncountable as in "There is a great sense of community in this town." It comes from the Latin words communis and communitas which means with/together (com) and service or function, (munus).

How large is a group of people? I would say a minimum of three is required, a group is usually a number of people who have something in common. They don't necessarily have to have an interest. You can have a group of teachers working in the same school, and likewise you can have a group of students who are in the same classroom or attend the same courses. However, when talking about the total number of students attending a large state school we would hardly ever use the term, group. Therefore, group is identifiable, you belong to a group whether by choice or de facto.

Finally, you can also have a group of inanimate objects or animals (useful if you have forgotten the collective noun; i.e. a litter of kittens; a clowder/kindle of cats = a group of kittens or a group of cats; "group" is an acceptable substitute) but never a community.

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