Cooperative and collaborative
Is there a difference between these two lexical items ?
"cooperative" and "collaborative" ?
in English? Many authors use the terms indistinctly, especially
When I checked the American Heritage Dictionary, I found a negative
connotation given to "cooperative" when given as a synonym for "collaborative."
To cooperate treasonably, as with an enemy occupation force in one's country.
Posted 18 September 2002
I think the question is about the verbs cooperate and
collaborate, and about the negative connotations of
collaborate. The American Heritage Dictionary
(Hougnton Mifflin, 1992, p. 371), gives the first meaning of collaborate
as "To work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort." The
second meaning given is "To cooperate treasonably, as with an enemy occupation
This second meaning is very restricted in use. It gained
wide currency during the World War II, when certain
nationals of occupied countries worked with the occupying
forces to further the ends of the enemy. This second
meaning is found more often in the nouns collaborator
(e.g., "Did you know that he was a Nazi collaborator during the war?")
and collaborationist. Collaborationist
has as its sole meaning "One that collaborates with an enemy occupation
force." The verb collaborate, on the other hand, is used
widely to mean "work together in a joint intellectual task" (American
Even though the two verbs cooperate and collaborate
sometimes used interchangeably or indiscriminately, there is a distinction
between them. Cooperate means "to act together toward
a common end or purpose" (American Heritage Dictionary). Cooperating
does not have to involve any kind of task. One cooperates
by following instructions willingly, acting in the best interests of others
in a group, sharing responsibilities, etc.
Collaborate (in its major meaning), with its root
labor, always involves some kind of task or effort. Once the context
of "shared effort or task" is established, the noun collaborator
can be used with no negative connotation. The Oxford English Dictionary
(Oxford University Press, 1971) defines collaborator
as "One who works in conjunction with others; esp. in literary,
artistic, or scientific work." The OED, completed in
1933, contains no mention of any other meaning.