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A group can be defined as (link):

a number of persons or things ranged or considered together as being related in some way.

Now suppose one of those persons is a distinguished member - like a leader, or a shaman, or a coach. Is there an alternative to the word "group" which would emphasize this?

I'm looking for a word that emphasizes that some particular member is "special", but not that they are necessarily "better", nor that people are arranged in some sort of a hierarchy.

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  • Have you looked up synonyms for group? There may be some which indicate a hierarchical structure, or a group which is customarily led, like a team.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 11:26
  • @AndrewLeach, yes I've looked up synonyms! Although now that you mention it, "team" isn't a bad suggestion. What I want is to emphasize that one member is "special" without suggesting that there is a whole hierarchy, if that makes sense. Commented May 16, 2013 at 11:30
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    I would think that in many contexts it is implicit that the group will have a leader. If there isn't a leader you might call them an informal group.
    – TrevorD
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 12:02
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    Somewhat related: In mathematics there's pointed set (a set with a distinguished element).
    – sdcvvc
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 12:57
  • Congregation and flock often suggest a group with a leader, although both have religious overtones, and the leader is not usually counted among the group in these cases. Commented May 16, 2013 at 13:20

4 Answers 4

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The catch is that almost every formal group of people has a "distinguished member". Any term implying a group of people with some structure will thus imply the existence of special roles within the group. So there hasn't been much need in English for such a specific word.

In line with that, the best I can suggest is the word "organization". (I considered "society", but the more general meanings of that word probably mean it's not as useful.) An organization implies that a group has some internal structure, and that structure in turn implies that some members will have special roles, without necessarily implying the existence of a hierarchy.

If this suggestion isn't useful, you should provide some context as to exactly why you need such a word.

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  • Regarding context: I'm trying to name a concept in mathematics. Basically, we have some entities (think: numbers) and a way of combining them (think: addition) and there's a special entity (think: zero) such that if you combine the special entity with any other entity, you get back that other entity. Like if you combine zero with three, you get back three. Thus zero is "special" in the group of numbers. Commented May 16, 2013 at 16:06
  • @goblin - the ideal place to ask is here. math.stackexchange.com Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 19:04
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Entourage describes this fairly well or for a less fancy word you could use the noun Following or even Posse. Cortege and Retinue also mean something similar but are more obscure.

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For a mathematical term, sdcvcc's suggestion of pointed is probably the most familiar.

Otherwise, I might suggest platoon, which is a military unit led by a single (commissioned) officer, rather than a hierarchy of officers.

(A platoon may however have non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in a "middle management" role. You could also consider squad which is a smaller unit led by a NCO.)

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I may be off track, but what about "tribe."

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  • 1
    Thanks for your answer. From what little I know about anthropology, "tribes" of hunter-gatherers were in fact fiercely egalitarian, and did not have leaders or "chiefs," contrary to all stereotypes. So this is, in some sense, exactly the wrong word! (But nonetheless thank you for your answer). Commented May 16, 2013 at 12:03
  • By the way, the downvote wasn't mine. It was rather harsh, in my opinion. Commented May 16, 2013 at 16:00

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