Clique Or Tribe? What’s the Difference?

clique or tribe

Many of us modern day moms grew up in school where the term “clique” was used to describe the groupings of people with common interests or social standing. Today, there’s a new terminology starting to gain more traction to replace it: Tribe. You may have heard this term thrown about in the workplace or even from a celebrity interview, but is it really the best replacement for clique?

What’s the difference between clique or tribe?

What Does Clique Mean?

According to, clique means “a small, exclusive group of people”. Generally, as I mentioned before, they are small groups of people who share the same interests and usually in a more social sense. The term clique probably conjures up images of high school where there were cliques like “the preps”, “the jocks”, “the nerds” or “the freaks” among a few. Too often, one was lumped into some of the more looked down upon cliques by others as a means of defining social status and their particular “cool” factor. As we grow older, cliques continue to emerge in the workplace, and the rivalries continue under different circumstances.

What Does Tribe Mean?

The Free Dictionary lists one of the many definitions of tribe as “a company, group or set of persons, esp. one with strong common traits or interests.” Of course, there is the more traditional meaning many of us think of, such as Native American or Aboriginal tribes and sometimes even the wars that raged between each due to disputes over land or property issues, among a few other things. There is an air of bonding that is implied in the term “tribe” that gives one the feeling of a bond that is almost unbreakable.

The Differences Between Clique and Tribe

On the surface, both terms appear to be synonymous to one another, but there is a slight difference in the attitude behind each term. Cliques give the impression of division of one group from another, where tribes give have the attitude of coming together as one. Cliques separate, where tribes connect people.

Cliques do still happen for us moms in some social gatherings, like play groups for our children. Those tend to be very catty type of groups, and usually end up in situations that would rival an episode of Real Housewives of Wherever. But, when you find a group of women and moms who just seem to click with you, and it is effortless to be around them and work together in unison, that has more of the tribal feel to it. The drama factor has a tendency to go way down in situations like that, versus getting slammed into or against a clique.

Have you found your tribe, or are you stuck in the adult version of high school cliques? Do you find that the words are too closely linked together to tell the difference, or is there a world of difference between the two?

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