I read that cooperate means "to associate with another or others for mutual benefit," but what is the verb, possibly a single word, that means "to dissociate from another or others for mutual benefit"?

The word that comes to mind immediately is divorce because there's a benefit at the bottom of it, but that benefit can hardly be considered mutual, and, aside its metaphorical sense, it can be applied to no more than two persons.

Thus, what is the word meaning "to dissociate from another or others for mutual benefit"?

  • 1
    Not to toot my own horn here, but none of the top-voted answers here actually imply the "for mutual benefit" meaning, as @PLL comments on one of the answers...although actually I'd say disengage does get used that way more than in a neutral sense. While we're at it, release is another possibility.
    – JeffSahol
    Sep 8, 2013 at 16:02
  • @JeffSahol I disagree. In order for a band to form, each member must agree to join. It stands to reason that disbanding = everyone decides to leave the group for their own benefit. If it wasn't to everyone's benefit, then the band would still exist, albeit with fewer members. +1 Disband.
    – Jack Ryan
    Sep 8, 2013 at 19:34
  • Sorry @JackRyan, but disband doesn't necessarily mean that everyone decides together; it means that they ceased to function as a group (thefreedictionary.com/disband. Maybe Ringo and George wanted to keep the Beatles together, for example, but they still disbanded.
    – JeffSahol
    Sep 8, 2013 at 22:54

11 Answers 11


Disband, if the context had already shown that the group was suffering — otherwise neutral.


There is a common phrase, to go our separate ways, that conveys this.

And Sting (a la Richard Bach) has pointed out, If you love somebody, set them free.


The noun spin-off, with senses such as “An incidental benefit or unexpected pay-off” and “a subsidiary company that continues the operations of part of the parent company”, is relevant. Apparently the verb form, spin off, isn't hyphenated, and the noun sometimes is written as spinoff.

The terms spin out and starburst also are used; for example, a three-page pdf document showing a July, 1968 “Semiconductor Family Tree” article from Electronic News shows a series of “spinouts”, such as Shockley from Bell, Fairchild from Shockley, and companies such as Raytheon, Intersil, Signetics, and National Semiconductor from Fairchild. (The article predates the formation of Intel and AMD by Fairchild alumni.) In many industrial spin-off scenarios, the division is beneficial to all parties; in the case of the many spinoffs from Fairchild, the semiconductor industry as a whole benefited vastly, but Fairchild typically did not benefit.


Disengage or dissolve might fit.

You can get more words from http://www.antonymsfor.com/opposite-word-for/cooperate.

  • These just describe the disassociation; they don’t carry any implications or even connotations of mutual benefit. A partnership can dissolve acrimoniously, to the benefit of neither partner; an individual can disengage unilaterally from a group enterprise that’s heading for failure, benefiting the individual but not the group.
    – PLL
    Sep 6, 2013 at 22:50

You could say that you have freed yourself, which implies that it's a positive. Both parties could be freed, too...doesn't necessarily imply that only one party benefits.

Related words: liberated, unbind/unbound

  • How about co-liberate? I was leaning towards co-split until I read your post.
    – Jack Ryan
    Sep 6, 2013 at 15:52

There is a phrase that is used to mean this.

took [himself] out of the equation

This phase is often used to indicate a complex situation of human and events, wherein all other parties benefit when one party is removed, and does so voluntarily. People commonly hear this term in espionage movies, when a secondary character removes themselves from a team in order to benefit others or the mission.

A more specific case, which has a precise term, is:


This carries more than 'disassociation from'... it often implies death, but can also be used in corporate or criminal scenarios, where one person takes the brunt of damages in order to preserve others or an institution. (e.g. resignation due to a scandal)

"took one for the team"

Likewise, another specific case is


A person can quarantine themselves in order to protect others, usually from an infection or some other non-anthropic force that cannot be reasonably controlled.

  • wow, some people seriously anon-hate my answer Sep 6, 2013 at 21:15

Discharge, disinvolve, and disentangle come to mind.

"Discharge" has connotations of fulfilling a duty, after which each party goes their separate ways.

"Disinvolve" seems to have the right feeling and sense about it, although if you ask the Oxford English Dictionary it doesn't seem to be a word. They've disinvolved themselves with defining it. ;)

"Disentangle" may also come close. Everyone benefits, as the "entanglement" has ended.

The idea of absolution also comes to mind. "You are hereby absolved of your duties," or, "Pray for absolution."


Divorce is probably indeed the word closest in meaning to what you want, although depending on context there is no benefit to any or either party built into the word. Contrary to what you postulated, there is no restriction on the quantity of entities involved in the use of divorce. One can even be divorced from things (usually elements of one's self, e.g., ideals, conscience, past). Disbandment, dissolution, and disassociation are similar, but to a greater degree have no implied benefit to any party.

One can be absolved or delivered from something, with an implied benefit, but these typically have a religious connotation (i.e. absolved/delivered from all your sins) and imply a greater benefit to the person receiving the absolution or deliverance.

In law, separation has a deeper meaning than in everyday English. It intimates that both parties are amicable to permanent separation, but that a divorce is not desired. In fact, divorce in this context has an obviously negative connotation. However, it is not simple to conjure this meaning of separation outside of that very specific context.

If you have a specific context in mind, it might make it easier to pinpoint the 'right' word.


"Amicable extrication" describes my "discrete elopement" from Facebook.

  • 1
    Discrete or discreet?
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 8, 2013 at 10:32

When a pop group decides to no longer play together these are some of the most common ways to refer to their mutual agreement:

Time Entertainment

The Beatles Although each Beatle privately “quit” the band at different times, Paul McCartney was the first one to go public about it. McCartney announced “the divorce,” as Lennon called it, via press release on April 10, 1970, although at the time he said the split was only temporary.

The Pixies [...] After years of rumors and breakup threats, front man Black Francis pulled the plug, announcing on BBC radio in January 1993 that the band was done.

The Guardian

... when Supergrass announced they were breaking up after a much longer time together – they cited a "17-year itch" due to "musical differences" – fans clamoured for tickets to their farewell tour.

"Should they then split up and go solo [...]?"

From Gigwise.com

My Chemical Romance are going their separate ways as well

Underoath: The Christian metalcore band may have announced they were calling it quits in 2012...

The Mars Volta: The Texan rock band split this year after twelve years of being together...

My Chemical Romance: The band had been at the centre of sensationalism for a while, but officially announced their split in March 2013.

S.C.U.M [...] We'd all like to thank you for all of your support but we have chosen to part ways and work on new projects

JLS: [...] after five years of successful singles the boys announced they were calling it a day.


How about we just part as friends?

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