Q: I’m taking an online course in emergency management and I’ve come across the word “collocate” used to mean share, as in, “a Unified Command to collocate facilities.” When I looked the word up, however, this usage seems incorrect. Please educate me!
A: The Oxford English Dictionary defines the verb “collocate” as meaning “to place side by side, or in some relation to each other; to arrange.” But it can also mean “to set in a place or position.”
The adjective “collocated” is derived from this verb and has similar meanings. The ultimate source of both verb and adjective is the Latin verb locare, to place.
So the verb (first recorded in 1548, according to the OED) doesn’t mean to share. And the adjective (1836) doesn’t mean shared.
The definitions in the two standard dictionaries we use the most—The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.) and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.)—agree with those in the OED.
It would appear that the language used in your emergency management course stretches the meaning a bit.
However, this isn’t all that unusual in the academic world, where educators often prefer a bureaucratic-sounding word like “collocate” to a simple one like “share.”
Thanks for sharing this—or, as the people teaching that course might say, collocating this!
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