\ 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

And critics complained of a caste system that advantaged Carmen students over ALBA's and Pulaski's. Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "A tug of war over who gets to use a single Milwaukee classroom spills into the streets," 30 Aug. 2019 The exploration of the caste system is also a bit superficial and the giddy juxtaposition of tones and genres can feel off. Karen D'souza, The Mercury News, "Review: Swashbuckling world premiere ‘House of Joy’ hits and misses at Cal Shakes," 19 Aug. 2019 Subbu’s family spoke Telugu, belonged to a lower caste. Abhijith Ravinutala,, "2019 Algren Awards: Finalist: Definition(s)," 20 July 2019 Nadars have traditionally occupied a low status in the caste ladder but have risen through entrepreneurship. Casey Newton, The Verge, "It’s time to end “trending” on Twitter," 13 Aug. 2019 Vigilante mobs have killed dozens of Muslims and lower-caste Indians suspected of slaughtering cows, a sacred animal in Hinduism. New York Times, "Under Modi, Hindus Find Hope for a Temple on Disputed Speck of Land," 1 July 2019 The quota system in employment, admission, state legislatures and the parliament won the loyalty of lower-caste Hindus and of Muslims, too. WSJ, "To What Extent, if Any, Should Race Count?," 18 Dec. 2018 Police also accused the five of delivering speeches that triggered protests and violence between low-caste Dalits and right-wing groups near Pune in December. Fox News, "India's top court refuses to release 5 rights activists," 28 Sep. 2018 Police also accused the five of delivering speeches that triggered protests and violence between low-caste Dalits and right-wing groups near the western city of Pune in December. Ashok Sharma, The Seattle Times, "India arrests 5 rights activists for alleged Maoist links," 28 Aug. 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

9 Sep 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 spread over or through

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