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What's the difference between meet up, meet and hook up as a synonym of meet up?

The Free Dictionary has the following definitions:

  • to meet up: to see and talk to someone familiar or someone you do not know: "Let's meet up for drinks after work."
  • to hook up: to meet someone and spend time together: "I was traveling alone, but then I hooked up with another woman about my age."

These definitions are really similar. What is the subtle difference between these three words?

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Hook up in common American parlance (among the under forty set) means to engage in sexual acts.

Meet (in this context) and meet up mean meet, that is, connect at a time and place.

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  • Yeah, you don't want to say "hook up" if you mean "meet up", that's just awkward.
    – McGarnagle
    Oct 19 '12 at 4:54
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    Two people can also hook up on Facebook. A drug peddler might hook me up with my weekly supply of crack cocaine. Oct 19 '12 at 6:35
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    Depends on context. Hooked up can also mean formed (or joined) a team, like in these instances. It doesn't always have a sexual connotation.
    – J.R.
    Oct 19 '12 at 8:47
  • what's the difference between this hook up (without sexual connotation) and meet up?
    – user42912
    Oct 19 '12 at 9:46
  • This says two people begin doing something together. Two other suggestions by coleopterist and J.R. I would avoid it because of ambiguity unless you were explicit about the nature of the hook-up.
    – bib
    Oct 19 '12 at 12:03
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As the question wants to know the differences in meaning when hook up is taken as a synonym for meetup, I'll ignore the sexual act connotations of hook up (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hookup_culture).

'Meet' has a stronger likelihood to mean 'meet for the first time,' and is slightly more likely to refer to a couple or small number of people gathering. 'Meet up' emphasizes a group coming from different places to the same place. The latter is strengthened by the meetup.com service which has turned meetup into a noun, sometimes amongst strangers bonding together over a common interest in politics, technology or other shared interests, often on a regular basis that engenders a community.

'Meet' is in a slightly higher register of language and formality than 'meet up', and 'hook up' is lower than both. Hook up can also mean one person putting a second in touch with a third for the purposes of getting something.

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