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Association vs Society vs Club vs Order

Association, Society, Club, and Order denote a body of persons who unite in the pursuit of a common aim or object.

Association is in general used of an organization which is inclusive in its membership, excluding only those whose personal affiliations, interests, and needs are different from those of the typical member or, if the object of the organization is service of some sort, those who do not belong to the business, the industry, or the profession served.

  • the Young Men’s Christian Associationy
  • the Modern Language Associationy
  • the National Association of Manufacturers

Society is often used interchangeably with association, but it tends to suggest a more restricted aim, a closer union of members, and their more active participation, and sometimes a narrower field of choice of membership.

  • the Christian Endeavor Society
  • Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
  • a missionary society
  • a secret society
  • the Philological Society
  • Society for Ethical Culture

Club usually suggests such privacy that admission to membership is only through election and invitation; it often also implies quarters for the meeting and entertainment of members and therefore is applied to the buildings or rooms as well as to the organization.

  • going to the country club to play golf
  • a political club
  • a bridge club
  • most large cities have a university club

Order is applied chiefly to a society whose members have common aims and accept common obligations (as of working together in brotherly union and of practicing certain virtues).

  • a religious order
  • a fraternal order 

Order usually suggests in addition a ritual, a uniform, and honorary distinctions.

  • the Independent Order of Odd Fellows
  • the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks