Your Colleagues Are Not Your 'Work Colleagues'

Knowing what a word means is critical to using it correctly. If you use the expression "work colleagues", what you're really saying is that that you don't know what "colleagues" means.

Picture: Getty Images/Steve Eason/Hulton Archive

Here's the definition of colleagues from the Macquarie Dictionary:

an associate in office, professional work etc.

More simply, colleague means "someone you work with". So you don't need to add "work" to the front — there is no such thing as a non-work colleague.

You wouldn't write "female woman" or "family relative" or "canine dog", so don't write "work colleague" either. Accuracy matters.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


    I've made this error on numerous occasions. Given I'm normally a stickler for this sort of thing, I'm feeling a little sheepish.

    I think people use it to distinguish someone that they work with in their organisation and someone that simply works in their field.

    So the question is, what do you call someone working in your field but not within your own organisation?

      Bob. I call them Bob.

      Peer? Rival perhaps, if you're competitive.

      Last edited 19/01/15 4:16 pm

      dre, I agree. I have many professional colleagues, with some of whom I work. They are work colleagues. I wouldn't refer to my receptionist as a colleague, although I work with her.

        while you work with your receptionist, is she actually an associate?

    So like that old ANZ ad where the guy asks to use the ATM Machine.

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