It’s likely that you’ll often come across the term ‘consult’ and ‘confer’. However, not all use the term interchangeably. Consult refers to a formal meeting, to confer refer to the informal meeting between parties. The associated feeling of informality is different between the two, as in, consult provides many advantages over confer.
Consult refers to a formal written communication between two or more people. On the other hand, confer is the informal adoption of written communication. Thus, a letter exchanged in consult resembles a letter written in a business environment, whereas a meeting between two or more individuals in conferring is less formal than a meeting between a single person and an organization. Clearly, the etymology of the term is related to the ‘writing’ profession, thus confer comes first, even though consult was originally a shortened version of a consultant.
Another etymology of consult is closely allied to the etymology of the word itself. In fact, consultare means ‘to draw together’ or ‘to join.’ This etymology gives us an insight into the relationship of consult to organizations, as it refers to the process of joining or setting up a group. In most organizations, consult is the byproduct of organization-building processes, which, of course, is the objective behind most consultancies. Therefore, if we look at the etymology of the word again, it can be seen as a synonym for the organization.
Thus, the etymology of the term consumer is associated with the process of administrating or governing, which is another example of the etymology of consult. The word, however, has evolved differently in various countries. In Spain, the connotation is one of authority or of a higher rank; while, in France, it implies a man of high position in government or politics. In England, the connotation is of a judge or lawyer dealing with legal issues. Other examples include the Italian word class, which mean the judge, and the Latin word is, which translates literally to ‘life sentence.’ Lastly, the French word service means ‘service,’ while the word tutela means ‘school.’
From all the explanations above, it would be easy to derive that consult refers to the process of building an institution or an organization. However, this is not the only etymology of consult that applies to the word, as other etymologies exist. For instance, the etymology of the console connotes the process of dividing and offering the division to a different party. This is used, for example, when a marriage is annulled by a judge and a divorce ordered by a court. These parties may then agree on a partition agreement in lieu of a divorce.
Another etymology of consult refers to a medical professional who asks advice or counsel from another person. These are known as medical consults. While a consultation between two doctors can be described as a consult, when the consult is between a medical practitioner and a patient, the term is more likely to be interpreted as ‘a discussion.’ A more common example of a medical consult is when a patient and his or her doctor come to a professional consultation together.
Consulting is also related to the profession of counseling. For instance, when a couple is having marital problems, they might consult with a counselor in order to work out their differences. However, in other instances, the term consult refers to professional services provided by psychologists, psychiatrists, or social workers. These professionals refer to these consultations as consultation. Similarly, when a school and a teacher wish to explore a particular topic together, they could engage the services of a consultant. The American Psychological Association also refers to these types of professional consultations as workshop consultations.
There is a great deal of confusion regarding what constitutes a consultation. From this confusion, it appears that the word consult refers to a certain type of counseling or professional service offered by psychologists, counselors, or social workers. However, it must be noted that in the United States, consulting is used to mean a type of product launch, including launching a new television show, movie, digital product or website. The British English word ‘consulting’ means ‘acting on behalf of another person’. So consulting is actually a way of engaging the other party (or parties) in an agreement or a negotiation about a particular matter.