Is there a neutral term for a person who belongs to an organization to which I also belong, not implying a personal relationship?

Inside a business, one might use colleague or peer. Business to business, one might use partner (or customer or vendor or supplier to indicate the direction in which the business takes place). But in my case this is not a business relationship.

There are other special purpose terms. If it is a fraternal or church organization, one might use brother and sister, but in my case they won’t do.

Co-participant is neutral but seems to connote more a common activity than a common organization, and it is awkwardly long. Confederate, on the other hand, conveys a common organization but seems to have a negative connotation. Fellow might also do, but it seems to have an elitist or learned connotation.

I am not looking for a word that means friend, such as companion or comrade. That connotes a personal relationship which does not necessarily exist between members of an organization. Comrade also brings in the leftist political alignment.

  • 3
    How about combining words you've suggested into "fellow member"
    – Luke
    Dec 6, 2011 at 20:53
  • 1
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Dec 6, 2011 at 21:03
  • 1
    What is the nature of the organization? That might suggest some specific suggestions
    – Dancrumb
    Dec 6, 2011 at 21:32
  • It is a community organization for freethinkers. It organizes social activities which are freethinker friendly (e.g., no "God talk"), and charitable and promotional activities in its geographical area.
    – MetaEd
    Dec 7, 2011 at 0:28
  • I should say that is the specific example I have in mind. However the only thing about its nature which enters into the question is negative: it's not a business, not a fraternal organization, and not a church. It might as well have been the Soroptimists or Habitat For Humanity.
    – MetaEd
    Dec 7, 2011 at 0:30

5 Answers 5


A synonym for colleague is cooperator; or associate.

  • 1
    I am leaning toward associate based on the linked explanation under synonyms: "Associate is the most general word for persons who are connected in life, work, etc.; it is special only in suggesting an alliance of some permanence." This seems to capture the neutrality I am after without being specific to a particular type of organization.
    – MetaEd
    Dec 7, 2011 at 0:16
  • Shall I add that text to my answer?
    – Gnawme
    Dec 7, 2011 at 5:15

You could say fellow member, although there are many instances where it would not be appropriate.

  • When would it be inappropriate? Dec 7, 2011 at 22:44
  • Inappropriate in the sense that it might be used in some situations. I was thinking about the business-to-business case mentioned in the original question. Dec 7, 2011 at 22:46

As all we know is you are both members of some unspecified organisation, and we don't want to emphasise any particularly strong relationship between you both, the most neutral term I can think of is co-member.

All this says is you are both members of something, but doesn't say much more.


Cohorts can refer to groups of people; it can also refer to the members of such groups.


"Fellow Traveler" can be fun, but can tweak anti-red noses.

  • Looking, though, for a word that denotes shared membership.
    – MetaEd
    Dec 7, 2011 at 6:03

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