\ 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 caste (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 online conference, Dismantling Global Hindutva, included panels on the hierarchical caste system, Islamophobia and differences between Hinduism the religion and Hindutva the majoritarian ideology. Washington Post, 3 Oct. 2021 Privilege is a euphemism, a genteel term that suggests a caste system in which people are afforded rights based on their status. Erik Sherman, Forbes, 31 Aug. 2021 Although this frame doesn’t directly show any flames or destruction, the facial expressions, the state of the dogs, the smoky color caste and the men’s backstories put viewers in the scene. Los Angeles Times, 1 Sep. 2021 In the incident, known as the Bhima Koregaon case, bloody clashes broke out between lower-caste and other regional groups in the state of Maharashtra. Rhea Mogul, Swati Gupta, Esha Mitra And Vedika Sud, CNN, 6 July 2021 Many of these workers belonged to the Dalit caste, which is the lowest group in India’s centuries-old social hierarchy, the lawsuit alleges. Joe Walsh, Forbes, 11 May 2021 From the rain forest of the Western Ghats, to the scrub forests of the deserts of Rajasthan, sacred groves range from a few square meters to many hectares and can be associated with a caste, village, or larger geographical area. Kalpana Sunder, The Christian Science Monitor, 22 Mar. 2021 Most Punjabis—whatever their religion, caste, class, profession—not only support the ongoing protests but are deeply invested in them. Arunabh Saikia, Quartz, 2 Mar. 2021 But a long history of foreign intervention and an entrenched caste system have proved difficult to dismantle. Washington Post, 31 Aug. 2021

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

borrowed from Portuguese casta "breed, lineage, family, hereditary social class in India," of uncertain origin

Note: Portuguese casta has exact counterparts in Spanish and Catalan casta, none of which are attested before the fifteenth century. The word has traditionally been taken as descending from a feminine noun derivative of Latin castus "free from (the thing named), untainted by vice, pure" (see chaste), though this etymology has been resisted by Joan Coromines, who points out that the earliest uses do not imply purity (see Diccionario crítico etymológico castellano e hispánico, s.v.). The phrase hacer casta (hacer "to do, make") means "to breed (animals)"—likewise, the phrase para casta "for breeding." The word would seem to refer to both the act of breeding and the succession of things bred. Coromines is surely correct in noting that Latin castus has influenced the later semantic development of casta. However, his hypothesis that an unattested Gothic word cognate with Old Icelandic kǫs, kǫstr "heap, pile" is the source of Iberian Romance casta is not convincing, The senses of the English noun cast entry 2 that he sees as most relevant, such as "a set of characters or persons" or "characteristic quality," are all late developments from the verb meaning "to throw" and can scarcely be traced back to proto-Germanic.

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Dictionary Entries Near caste

cast down


Castelar y Ripoll

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Last Updated

11 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Caste.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for caste



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

More from Merriam-Webster on caste

Nglish: Translation of caste for Spanish Speakers

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


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