I heard someone use a phrase something like:
- My position (or power) is coequal with (something else).
I believe it was used in the American House Judiciary Committee. I don't hear this word often at all. Immediately I wondered to myself the difference between this word and "equal", and in which cases one should be used over the other.
Having the same rank or importance.
Oxford Living Dictionaries
adj. Equal with one another, as in rank or size.
American Heritage Dictionary
As you can see from definitions, "equal" and "coequal" seem to mean the same thing, with "equal" even appearing in the definition of "coequal".
If we look at some of the sentences provided by dictionaries, I believe we see that "coequal" could easily be replaced with "equal".
- equal partners
You know, we're a coequal branch of government.
Coequal branch of government seems to me to be referring to a branch of government that's simply "equal" (whether in powers or jurisdiction).
At first I hypothesized that "coequal" is more appropriate when referring to two entities, but many dictionaries define "coequal" as:
1.equal with another or each other in rank, ability, etc.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary
So going strictly by dictionary definitions, the word would be appropriately used whether with reference to another entity or multiple other entities.
I surmised that the use of "coequal" might be more common when speaking of powers of government or organisations. However I'm still unsure about this, as I see many of the quotations and usage examples not related at all to this.
I also hypothesized that "coequal" means "equal to something else", however I realized that the word "equal" impliedly has this meaning. For example if I was the last human on earth it probably wouldn't make sense to say I am equal or have equal rights. Rather the equality seems always to be comparative to other things.
Finally, I thought I discovered a difference. If we take:
- "coequal partners"
We might imagine partners in a business who have an equal say, as opposed to a married couple. However I think this is conveyed just as much with "equal partners". Perhaps "coequal" emphasizes the first business meaning more than "equal" does?
Any significant differences between these two? Or any difference at all?