meaning - Do "figure out" and "realize" mean the same?

  • yzT

    Talking about noticing something, do both mean the same?

    For example:

    • I just figured out that the ball is blue.
    • I just realized that the ball is blue.
  • Answers
  • Ian Atkin

    No. They are substantially different.

    To realize, in the sense of coming to a conclusion (and not as in to bring into reality, which is akin to inventing something), means to comprehend something completely.

    The act of figuring out is the act of finding a solution to a problem.

    Realization usually happens unexpectedly, as if by magic. One minute your mind wanders, and then you see something in a new light. In that sense, it's a passive occurrence.

    Figuring something out, on the other hand, takes effort, and is normally done with a specific goal in mind.

  • Related Question

    meaning - What's the difference between "Collaborate" and "Cooperate"?
  • Lunivore

    Both of these words seem to mean much the same thing: working together to achieve some goal. I can instinctively feel a difference between them, but I can't easily put it into words.

    Can you help me? Do these words come from different etymologies which might explain the difference?

  • Related Answers
  • tastapod

    Cooperating means working with someone in the sense of enabling: making them more able to do something (typically by providing information or resources they wouldn't otherwise have).

    Collaborating means actually working alongside someone (from Latin laborare: to work) to achieve something.

    The confusion comes from the overloaded meaning of "work with": In the "Work with me, people" sense, it means to go along with my idea - it's a passive condoning or suspension of disbelief rather than an active involvement. In the "I'm stuck, can you work with me on this problem?" sense it is a request for active commitment.

    So in terms of helping achieve something, the ordering is something like collaboration, then cooperation, then passive indifference, then active obstruction.

  • ctford

    I think it has to do with ownership of the outcome. If you collaborate with me on a project, we have shared authorship. Cooperation could just mean that you've given me help on something I'm working on and that I'm ultimately responsible for.

  • Unreason

    If you start with etymologies, you can see that


    also co-operate, c.1600, from L.L. cooperatus, pp. of cooperari "to work together with" (see cooperation). Related: Cooperated; cooperating.



    1871, back formation from collaborator (1802), from Fr. collaborateur, from L. collaboratus, pp. of collaborare "work with," from com- "with" (see com-) + labore "to work" (see labor). Given a bad sense in World War II. Related: Collaborated; collaborating.

    share the meaning coming from "to operate" and "to labor", whose meaning in the "co(m)-" sense is almost indistinguishable.

    So, the actual usage is what distinguishes the two words; dictionary entries are almost the same, with the exception from the etymology, that collaborate took a specific meaning during WWII of "cooperate treasonably, as with an enemy occupation force in one's country."

    Also, cooperate can be used for when someone is said to simply "be compliant" - without proactive involvement; where collaborate does imply a bit more active involvement ("cooperate" has slightly wider application, which might be directly related to the fact that the word started to be used almost two centuries before "collaborate").