\ ˈkast How to pronounce caste (audio) also ˈkäst \

Definition of caste

1 : one of the hereditary social classes in Hinduism that restrict the occupation of their members and their association with the members of other castes
2a : a division of society based on differences of wealth, inherited rank or privilege, profession, occupation, or race
b : the position conferred by caste standing : prestige art and religion have lost caste— F. L. Baumer
3 : a system of rigid social stratification characterized by hereditary status, endogamy, and social barriers sanctioned by custom, law, or religion
4 : a specialized form (such as the worker of an ant or bee) of a polymorphic social insect that carries out a particular function in the colony soldier castes for fighting enemy ants

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Other Words from caste

casteism \ ˈka-​ˌsti-​zəm How to pronounce casteism (audio) \ noun

Examples of caste in a Sentence

He was from a higher caste. a member of the upper caste
Recent Examples on the Web The meeting established Millicent as the face of school desegregation in Charleston—the person whose name would forever be linked to dismantling the educational caste system in the city. Adam Harris, The Atlantic, "The Persistence of Segregation in South Carolina," 29 Sep. 2020 India’s constitution outlaws caste-discrimination and enshrines affirmative action via laws designed to make up for centuries of marginalization of Dalits, who now number more than 200 million. Upmanyu Trivedi,, "Protests Erupt in India Following Woman’s Death in Rape Case," 1 Oct. 2020 All four were from an upper caste community and have also been booked for crimes against minorities, according to the statement. Jessie Yeung, CNN, "A second Dalit woman has died after alleged gang rape, sparking outrage and protests across India," 1 Oct. 2020 The gang rape and death of a woman from the lowest rung of India’s caste system sparked outrage across the country on Wednesday, with several politicians and activists demanding justice and protesters rallying in the streets. Fox News, "Rape and killing of Dalit woman shocks India, draws outrage," 30 Sep. 2020 But this familiarity—overfamiliarity, even—was, in fact, a way of publicly reinforcing the lower-caste status of Blacks. Cressida Leyshon, The New Yorker, "David Wright Faladé on Complicated Backstories," 24 Aug. 2020 Whiteness can name a specifically American caste system—a historical product of plantation slavery—or a set of unexamined beliefs about a person’s own centrality, neutrality, authority, and objectivity. Hari Kunzru, The New York Review of Books, "The Wages of Whiteness," 8 Sep. 2020 This chance meeting would anchor the Healy children in the Christian tradition that would sustain them and conceal them from America’s racial caste system for the rest of their lives. Bryan Greene, Smithsonian Magazine, "Born Enslaved, Patrick Francis Healy ‘Passed’ His Way to Lead Georgetown University," 8 Sep. 2020 Some Indians, such as upper-caste urbanites, were loyal to the raj — British rule over India — and fought enthusiastically for the Allies, but the vast majority volunteered because they were offered land, a stable salary and steady meals. Maria Abi-habib, New York Times, "The Forgotten Colonial Forces of World War II," 1 Sep. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'caste.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of caste

1613, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for caste

Portuguese casta, literally, race, lineage, from feminine of casto pure, chaste, from Latin castus

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Time Traveler for caste

Time Traveler

The first known use of caste was in 1613

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Statistics for caste

Last Updated

22 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Caste.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for caste


How to pronounce caste (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of caste

: one of the classes into which the Hindu people of India were traditionally divided
: a division of society based upon differences of wealth, rank, or occupation


\ ˈkast How to pronounce caste (audio) \

Kids Definition of caste

1 : one of the classes into which the Hindu people of India were formerly divided
2 : a division or class of society based on wealth, rank, or occupation
3 : social rank : prestige

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