\ˈkast 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 \ˈkas-​ˌti-​zəm \ noun

Examples of caste in a Sentence

He was from a higher caste. a member of the upper caste

Recent Examples on the Web

Though of the highest Brahmin caste, his family was desperately poor, his father only able to work intermittently as a low-level government functionary due to chronic health problems. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "We Are Scientists," 5 June 2018 In this tiny country lie eight of the world's ten highest mountains and more than 100 different castes and ethnic groups. Antonia Neubauer, Town & Country, "How to Plan a Trip to Asia," 5 Oct. 2016 The details differ from species to species, but in general, wasp colonies are structured into castes of female workers, who provide all facets of labor from caring for young to foraging for food. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "Five Real Life Wasp Superpowers Not in Ant-Man and the Wasp," 22 Mar. 2018 Fast forward 14 years: Seg-El is 23, cavorting with the rank-less lower caste and pulling scams in a local bar to help support his parents, Ter-El (Rupert Graves) and Charys-El (Paula Malcomson). Lorraine Ali,, "In 'Krypton,' the untold story of Superman's family saga holds promise but lacks fireworks," 21 Mar. 2018 The soundtrack spans decades and genres but still remains decidedly ’90s — further playing into the filmmakers’ dedication to representing as many different levels of the high-school caste system as possible. Jen Juneau,, "10 Reasons Why Can't Hardly Wait Is the Most Underrated Teen Movie of the '90s," 12 June 2018 Bajracharya, from Marie Stopes Nepal, says those who convert tend to come from the lowest Dalit caste in the Hindu religion. Rojita Adhikari, CNN, "Pro-life activists target rural Nepali women," 8 June 2018 The novel begins at a simmer, circling the adolescence of two Telugu girls of the weaver caste in Indravalli, an impoverished village in Andhra Pradesh. Anita Felicelli, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘Girls Burn Brighter,’ by Shobha Rao," 21 Mar. 2018 The vast majority of marriages are still arranged by families, and some 94% of them among Hindus are within the same caste. The Economist, "India’s gender gap is closing in some respects, but remains vast," 15 Mar. 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

4 Nov 2018

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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 \

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).


living or existing for a long time

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