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

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

San Francisco residents seem to be divided into four broad classes, or perhaps even castes: The Inner Party of venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs who run the tech machine that is the engine of the city’s economy. Antonio García Martínez, WIRED, "How Silicon Valley Fuels an Informal Caste System," 9 July 2018 In my work, India is a culture with a multitude of religions, castes, languages, colors, people — far bigger a melting pot than New York. Teen Vogue, "Sachin of Sachin & Babi in Conversation with His Daughter Rhea Ahluwalia," 15 June 2018 After nine days, more foragers had died than ants of any other caste; all of the queens were still alive. Diana Gitig, Ars Technica, "Sick ants stay away from the kids," 26 Nov. 2018 Deadly caste protests sweep across India Video provided by AFP Newslook NEW DELHI — If all goes well, Sanjay Jatav will marry Sheetal in July. Jason Overdorf, USA TODAY, "In India, an 'Untouchables' wedding highlights tensions over social change," 22 Apr. 2018 Intermarriage between castes is legal, for example – but community restrictions on it often go unchallenged. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, "Global decline in democracy? The lesson from India may be 'Not so fast.'," 16 Mar. 2018 Such social restrictions become more rigid higher up the caste hierarchy. The Economist, "Culture and the labour market keep India’s women at home," 5 July 2018 Portrait of injustice, caste prejudice, and venal politics in contemporary India. $9, 7 Speed members. Gege Reed, The Courier-Journal, "What to do around Louisville this week: Janet Jackson, Santa, speakeasy party & more," 29 Nov. 2017 The chief minister of the Indian state of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, played caste politics to gain power before successfully quelling Maoist terror. Ann Toews, WSJ, "‘A Savage Order’ Review: When a State Fuels Bloodshed," 11 Dec. 2018

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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Statistics for caste

Last Updated

6 May 2019

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Time Traveler for caste

The first known use of caste was in 1613

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on caste

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with caste

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for caste

Spanish Central: Translation of caste

Nglish: Translation of caste for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of caste for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about caste

Comments on caste

What made you want to look up caste? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to mark by some ceremony or observation

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