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?

  • 2
    Doesn't googling both the terms clear the difference? Commented Oct 2, 2013 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? Commented Oct 2, 2013 at 7:25
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    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
    Commented Oct 2, 2013 at 7:43

2 Answers 2


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


Con in Espanol means with. In this case with human intent! This would be very different from gravel that sorts out as a river goes around a bend. All the gravel becomes aggregate, but not by conscientious choice as in a group of people meeting together at a certain place at a specific time and for a prearranged purpose. Notice how the people then go away as they please to places they choose. Totally different from individual pebbles in a pile of gravel deposited there by forces of nature. The human mind can overcome forces of nature, and united together a congregation of humans intent on their purpose can alter the very nature of the universe. Gravel can never of itself decide to get up and go. There is no spirit in gravel, it is without the force of life.

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