From Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (in the sense related to a particular group):

❍ alliance : a group of people, political parties, etc. who work together in order to achieve something that they all want

❍ consortium : a group of people, countries, companies, etc. who are working together on a particular project

❍ syndicate : group of people or companies who work together and help each other in order to achieve a particular aim

The definitions of those three words look alike. Are there any differences between them?

  • Welcome to ELL! This is a nice, well-researched question. I am sure that you didn't mean it that way but, for future reference, opinion-based questions are off-topic in ELL, so the wording "What do you think".. is not ideal. – JavaLatte Jan 9 '18 at 13:44
  • @JavaLatte Sorry, I will edit the question. – A Learner Jan 9 '18 at 14:01

An alliance tends to involve mutual support, but does not necessarily have a common interest, a specific objective or a plan. It does not necessarily involve a long-term commitment. An extreme example of this is when two people or groups with very little in common are forced to cooperate. This is called an unholy alliance.

A consortium involves a specific project, usually business related. For example, a group of people who invest money in a specific business venture, but have nothing else in common, could be described as a consortium.

A syndicate best describes a group of people who, even if they did not collaborate, would have some natural common interest, for example workers in a particular industry or newspapers in a particular region. They can improve the strengh of their position, particularly financially, by sharing information and negotiating and acting collectively.

  • 1
    In particular, "syndicates" are used to distribute a wholesale lot of something to a number of buyers. For example, large corporate loans are bought by syndicates of banks, and television shows are syndicated to local television stations. – Jasper Jan 11 '18 at 23:56

Re-read the definitions again:

❍ alliance ...to achieve something that they all want

E.g., A workers union lobbying for an increase in pay

❍ consortium ...working together on a particular project

E.g., The Gates foundation working to eradicate Polio with the help of non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

❍ syndicate : ... in order to achieve a particular aim

E.g., A group of people who collectively purchase lottery tickets, to increase their chance of winning the jackpot.

In short, this all depends on the context. A 'syndicate' can be something linked to crime whereas 'consortium' would unlikely be used as such.


Alliance is typically used for countries or politically but not necessarily legally recognized independent entities like rebelling factions.

Consortium is typically used for companies or company-like entities like non-profit organizations.

Syndicate is more "after the fact" and is tended to describe where illegal collusion happens or situations where people have banded together but don't necessarily want to admit it publicly. People in syndicates are doing something long term. For example, a group of people that have decided to spend a lot time and effort on selling stolen property, and are willing to work with others that want to do that as well, could be referred to as a syndicate. They may not refer to themselves as a syndicate (or anything really).


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