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Get to the Point!

‘Coequal’: Is That a Word?

By Theda C. Snyder

We’ve heard a lot lately about coequal branches of government, but what exactly does that word mean? Is it even a word?

Well, yes, it is a word. My Webster’s dictionary defines coequal as “equal with one another.” goes a bit further to same effect: “equal with another or each other in rank, ability, extent, etc.” The bottom line is that “coequal” means “equal.”

Despite this word having been around since the late 14th century, it does not appear in the Constitution.

But Shouldn’t There Be a Hyphen in Coequal?

No, despite what you may have seen, “coequal” is not a hyphenated word.

We use the prefix “co-“ a lot to describe relative status, such as when we talk about our co-workers. This prefix can mean a thing is subordinate to the other, that things are together, or — wait for it — that the things are equal. If the word after this prefix is “equal” and equality is what we are trying to stress, the prefix appears superfluous.

If you want to sound pretentious and show you can use fancy words, go for it. But if your goal is to communicate plainly without triggering the reader’s or listener’s ire, stick with “equal.”

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Categories: Get to the Point, Grammar, Legal Writing, Vocabulary
Originally published February 12, 2019
Last updated April 1, 2019
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Teddy Snyder Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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