I am looking for the closest single word which refers only to those people who are directly connected to a person's life. Most specifically, this the meaning of the word should include co-workers, classmates, friend, and family members, but should not include strangers.

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    What’s wrong with people you know, or are acquainted with? Why do you feel you need one single word? – tchrist Jan 10 '13 at 7:20
  • I am selecting chapter titles for a book. All other chapters have one-word titles, so I want to maintain this simplicity and consistency throughout. – Village Jan 10 '13 at 7:28
  • Why not call it People? As a title of a chapter in a book about somebody it should be clear enough that the people are connected in some way. Or I suppose you might title it Connections – Jim Jan 10 '13 at 7:30
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    Can you call it like someone's world ? Like Jim's world consists of his family, friends and coworkers. This is a pretty common usage in Hindi for the word World (संसार in Hindi) – Mohit Jan 10 '13 at 7:33
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    @Mohit: I think that is usually written in English as samsara, the wheel of life. – Mitch Jan 12 '13 at 0:23

15 Answers 15


How about kith? I had always assumed that kith excluded family members (because of the phrase "kith and kin") but it seems to have about the definition and connotation you desire.

Definition of KITH: familiar friends, neighbors, or relatives

Of course the word isn't commonly used outside of that one particular phrase, but still, it seems to fit.

Here's the etymology of it.

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  • That's just perfect. I would have suggested that word but I was too late. – Sathyaish Jan 24 '13 at 10:04

That would probably be your circle, a term that Google also uses. You can also consider the words coterie, tribe, and clan.

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    +1 for coterie. I doubt many people know it, but I like it. – Jim Jan 10 '13 at 7:32
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    Imho only circle matches. Of perhaps circle of acquaintances to define this more precisely. The other words, however, don't fit since they don't combine co-workers, classmates and family members. While, for example, you share interests with all of them your co-workers and your family don't share them necessarily. And this is what I consider to be important that people are in a coterie. Especially they (co-workers and your family) usually don't do that together which is also a precondition. – Em1 Jan 10 '13 at 10:59
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    I think circle, as mentioned in the answer above and circle of acquaintances as suggested by EM1 in the comments fit in perfectly. – user32480 Jan 15 '13 at 13:12
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    I think if you want a single word, then circle is your best bet. It can be further modified by terms such as inner (circle), family, social to describe various levels of interaction. That way you can also denote (to some extent) the closeness of the people contained within each segment. – JohnP Jan 18 '13 at 20:48

Community is broad enough to encompass co-workers and friends, and intimate enough to include family.

community (noun) 1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.

2.a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.

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    I would think community wouldn't be a good fit, as many members of my community fall into the category of "I don't even know their name." I think of people in the community as being local to my area, but not necessarily inside the circle of my associates and family. So, my brother (who lives hundreds of miles away) is not a member of my community, but the lady who walks her dog past my house (who I've never even spoken to) is. My community is made up of the folks who vote for or against the same bond issues I do on election day. But maybe others use that word differently than I do. – J.R. Jan 10 '13 at 10:28
  • I'm thinking of it more in terms of a collective connected by a single trait. Like a "fitness community". The above definition does specify locality. I'll include another that doesn't. The "EL&U community" too. – tylerharms Jan 10 '13 at 10:43
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    I could definitely see the word being applied that way, but probably with a qualifier. Something like my community of close friends would be apt, for example. But it would be risky to use that word by itself in hopes of conveying the meaning of "co-workers, classmates, friends, and family members". – J.R. Jan 10 '13 at 10:54

In Australian English there is an evolving usage of the term mob.

Although the standard definition is clearly pejorative, the word has a history of affectionate (or at least jocular) use in Australia. When it was time for the neighbourhood children to return to their own homes, my father would say "Can't you mob hear your mothers calling you for tea?"

It would certainly be applied to family as in "When all the aunts and uncles gathered, we were quite a mob to feed. Talk about the loaves and fishes".

In recent years, Indigenous Australians have begun to claim the term as a collective noun for family, kinship clan, people living in the district or all Aboriginal people as needed. The website OurMob.com.au describes itself as "a premier Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and community information website" with the tagline If it is not on OurMob.com.au it is not reaching Our Mob.

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  • Suggests “gang”, which also has a negative connotation (as in “gangster”) but also a positive one (as in “That Old Gang Of Mine”), at least in the U.S. – Scott Jan 23 '13 at 18:26
  • I'd suggest it's not recent either, since They're a Weird Mob was published in 1957 – andy256 Nov 29 '14 at 21:53

I might try associates (which may sound a little stodgy for family members, but the word seems fairly flexible, according to NOAD):

associate (n.) 1 a partner or colleague in business or at work : he arranged for a close associate to take control of the institute. • a companion or friend : his old friend and hearty associate.

I think it could be applied to co-workers, classmates, and friends easily enough.

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    I associate with my wife and children, but I wouldn't call them associates. That would understate the connection to a misleading degree. – Robusto Jan 12 '13 at 15:07
  • @Robusto: I agree with you on that one. As my last sentence might imply, I think the word applies more strongly to co-workers, classmates, and friends, more so than family members. (What can I say? 3 out of 4 ain't bad. But I think associates is at least as worthy of consideration as most of the others that have been mentioned here.) – J.R. Jan 12 '13 at 15:26
  • @Robusto, acquaintances has a similar problem, doesn't it? To refer to one's wife and children, specifically, as acquaintances is a pretty horrible understatement. That said, of course they are among one's acquaintances. – Ryan Haber Jan 14 '13 at 20:20
  • @Ryan: A lot of terms have similar problems. My comment was confined to associates. – Robusto Jan 14 '13 at 20:25


In its narrow sense, the word 'acquaintance' can be used to mean someone with whom you are acquainted and no more than that. For example, if someone asks if a person is your friend, you might say "No, more of an acquaintance really." Thereby, one could argue on that basis that acquaintances would not include friends. But friends are a type of acquaintance, just as a father is a type of relative.

If one accepts that the word 'acquaintance' is merely an antonym of the word 'stranger', because it is used to describe those with whom you are acquainted, as opposed to those with whom you are not, then in its broad sense 'acquaintances' is probably the answer you're looking for!

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We hear so often about social networks. Since you want a single word, how about network. It has many definitions. The "social" definition is somewhat cynical:

As a noun: "A directory of people maintained for their advancement."
As a verb: "To interact socially for the purpose of getting connections or personal advancement."

But try it on for size. I think with "social networks" being a ubiquitous and au courant phrase, the simpler "network" might work for your purposes.

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Kinship could also be applicable. While this normally denotes family and close relationships it could also be applied in a broader context.

From Wikipedia:

Kinship is a term with various meanings depending upon the context. This article reflects the long-standing use of the term in anthropology, which is usually considered to refer to the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of most humans in most societies, although its exact meanings even within this discipline are often debated

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Why don't you say "The People"? By using "The", you are referring to known people.

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I'd suggest entourage, even though it's more in regard to the people around an important person; but it can also apply to the environment in a broader sense.

en·tou·rage (nt-räzh) n. 1. A group of attendants or associates; a retinue. 2. One's environment or surroundings.

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    I'd probably only use this word with a bit of wry humor. I'm pretty sure that, if my co-workers asked me if I was attending some sort of social event, and I replied, "Oh, yes, I'll be there – and my entourage is coming with me," then my answer would be met with some good-natured chuckles. – J.R. Jan 10 '13 at 19:44

A couple of suggestions that I don't see among the answers yet:

"inner circle"

noun - definition: a small, intimate, and often influential group of people. Origin: 1870-75



noun - definition: group, assortment


array, assemblage, band, batch, body, bunch, bundle, camp, circle, clan, class, clique, clump, cluster, clutch, collection, company, compendium, coterie, crew, crowd, faction, gaggle, gang, kit, lot, mob, organization, outfit, pack, push, rat pack, sect, series

(from Thesaurus.com)

As you can see from the list of synonyms for "set", there are many, many words for a group that could be used for your purposes but each has another, more specific connotation that may not be appropriate.

I think the biggest hurdle in your challenge is to find a single word to tie together one's close circle of family, friends and the group consisting of co-workers or school mates which my kin in Germany so suitably call (I've translated) colleagues or acquaintances.

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Familiars? I was thinking number 2 below...

Definition of FAMILIAR

1: a member of the household of a high official
2: one who is often seen and well known; especially : an intimate associate : companion
3: a spirit often embodied in an animal and held to attend and serve or guard a person
4 a : one who is well acquainted with something
4 b : one who frequents a place


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    Where is the definition from? Always attribute copyrighted material! – RegDwigнt Jan 10 '13 at 14:55
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    There are too many other connotations to familiar to offer this as a universal answer to the question. – Robusto Jan 12 '13 at 15:09
  • Beautiful. A great example of how familiar words can be used to create surprisingly interesting usage. – Sathyaish Jan 24 '13 at 10:03

Not sure if this is even close.

fellowship |ˈfɛlə(ʊ)ʃɪp|
noun 1 [ mass noun ] friendly association, especially with people who share one's interests: they valued fun and good fellowship as the cement of the community.
• [ count noun ] a group of people meeting to pursue a shared interest or aim.
• [ count noun ] a guild or corporation.

Source: The OED

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Here are a few suggestions:

1) Kin

2) Clique

3) Folk

4) kinfolk

5) tribe

6) division, as in his division of people.

7) ilk

8) line, as in his line of people

9) community, as in he consulted within his community

10) circle, as in he kept it within his circle.

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The correct answer is "Sphere" referring to a persons sphere of influence which is the most applicable word I know of that specifically includes different groups of people that influence your life and vice vera in a multitude of ways as well as different time periods or stages of ones life, all of which you have had some memorable personal interaction with.

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