What’s the difference between a clique and a gang? Is a clique just an apprentice gang? Do cliques inflict social pain and then get upgraded to gang status when they inflict physical pain?
Mama Maroon

Clique is generally used to refer to an exclusive social group, and most people I know who use it tend to restrict it to mean “the popular group I couldn’t get into” (especially referring to school social groups).

Gang is generally used to refer to delinquents/hoods or perceived delinquents, e.g. “street gangs”.

Note: no dictionary was used in the writing of this post, to reduce the tendency of the poster to discuss connotation vs. denotation.

“It’s bacon!!”

If it’s in the suburbs, it’s a clique until they kill somebody. If it’s in the inner city, it’s a gang.

I’ll go with Kat on this. The M-W defines clique as an exclusive social group. A gang is any group that hangs out together. (Gang literally comes from “going (together)”. Think of the gang-way on a ship (or in Chicago). Gang as a negative name for a group existed side-by-side with the word for any group for many years. (Think of the “Our Gang” comedies or the song with the phrase “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here.” These were still in use for quite a while after people began talking about Al Capone’s gang or the Purple Gang.) In the 1950’s, people became more concerned about motorcycle gangs and youth gangs. That died down a bit during the 1960’s (when all youth were evil), but started to come back in the 1970’s and fully blossomed in the 1980’s when the Crips, Bloods, and their ilk started making names for themselves. I would guess that “gang” lost most of its innocent connotation in the late 1970’s.

In its more innocent connotation, it would not have been the same as a clique because a gang was simply those people who “went” together while a clique is always exclusive.

In its more evil connotation, a gang would always threaten physical violence while a clique would simply prevent an outsider from partaking of certain social benefits.


i think gang usually implies crime. i have been in a few cliques, being a suburban high school student, but i know only a few people who have ever been in a gang. a clique is just an exclusive (or not-so-exclusive) group of kids who usually dresses alike and shares roughly the same views on life. gangs have a more violent image.


Clique is a bunch of bourgeois twits. Usually into petty capitalist hierarchical stategies, though occasionally slumming in faux proletariat trappings for effect (e.g., see grunge).

Gang is a group of oppressed, angry, alienated members of the proletariat. Usually more into “direct action”, although occasionally mistakenly straying into capitalist semiotics (i.e. particular sneakers, brand names, etc…)

“Proverbs for Paranoids, 1: You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.”

  • T.Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow.

Jorge pretty much summed it up for me: A clique is a gang with wealth and/or power. Any other definition beyond this one is an invention to create differences that aren;t there to make one group or the other feel more justified in being a group.

Jason R Remy

“No amount of legislation can solve America’s problems.”
– Jimmy Carter (1980)

A herd of street toughs? A gaggle of delinquents?