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What is difference between congregate and aggregate? I see that those words deal with same things, but there are difference, and I don't see which?

  • Doesn't googling both the terms clear the difference? – mikhailcazi Oct 2 '13 at 6:48
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    Is there perhaps an example sentence where it doesn't seem clear why one would be used over the other? – Tyler James Young Oct 2 '13 at 7:25
  • A dictionary should illustrate the difference. What is unclear between congregate and aggregate? Actually, ODO's example for aggregate is particularly poor, so that might form the basis of expanding the question. – Andrew Leach Oct 2 '13 at 7:43
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Etymologically they are related and have a common origin from the Latin stem gregare (and grex) meaning herd, along with other words such as segregate, gregarious, and egregious. In fact it is a very interesting example of how a prefix can alter the meaning of a word. And here too we find a brilliant example of a word (egregious) taking on a meaning that is a complete opposite of its original (and etymologically) intended one.

con- means commingle

ad- means toward

Thus congregate is usually applied to animate subjects (human beings) and gives the sense of bringing together into a whole, and is not used as a noun.

Example sentence (dictionary.com):

1.Graduate students, who used to congregate in a lounge and the hallways outside

2.Fish ripple out as the water rises and congregate as it falls, providing food

whereas aggregate is usually applied to inanimate subjects and gives the sense of adding to the group, and it is much less often used as a verb.

Example sentences (dictionary.com):

  1. Fines and costs, these judgments amount to an aggregate of about $38000.

  2. The rich colors on the panel are natural-colored aggregate from all parts of

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